German chemical and biotech giant BASF and Stolt Tankers have introduced a new inland tanker designed to navigate low water levels on the Rhine River.

Featuring a special lightweight construction, the new tanker allowed for high payloads even during extreme low water on the Rhine, BASF said.

The result of a partnership between BASF, Stolt Tankers, Mercurius Shipping Group, and a consortium comprising Duisburger Entwicklungszentrum für Schiffstechnik und Transportsysteme, Technolog Services GmbH, and Agnos Consulting, the Stolt Ludwigshafen was launched at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site on 26 May.

“Following the extreme low water levels on the Rhine in 2018, we initiated an extensive programme to improve climate resilience at [the] Ludwigshafen site. With… the Stolt Ludwigshafen, we are concluding the implementation of this… package. Now BASF takes advantage of the most powerful low water vessel on the Rhine, ensuring the supply to our customers and production plants,” said Uwe Liebelt, BASF president, European Verbund sites.

Built between 2021-2023, the hull of the Stolt Ludwigshafen was manufactured by Mercurius Shipping Group in Yangzhou, China, on behalf of Stolt Tankers. It was then transported to Rotterdam, Netherlands, to complete the outfitting of the ship.

Following successful test trials, BASF said the new low-water inland tanker Stolt Ludwigshafen had been in operation for the company since the end of April.

To achieve a high load-bearing capacity, the dimensions of the new ship are 135M by 17.5M, which was considerably larger than conventional tankers on the Rhine, the company said.

In addition, the hull features a lightweight construction, a hydro-dynamically optimised hull and a special propulsion system adapted to allow safe operation even under extreme low-water conditions.

These features allowed the ship to pass the critical point in the Rhine River near Kaub with a cargo payload of 800 tonnes even at a gauge level of 30cm (corresponding to a water depth of 1.6M), BASF said. At moderately low water levels, for example Kaub gauge of 100cm, its loading capacity of around 2,300 tonnes would be double compared to conventional inland vessels.

Overall, the Stolt Ludwigshafen featured a maximum loading capacity of 5,100 tonnes, BASF said.

Stolt Tankers operates a fleet of more than 160 parcel tankers, providing global transportation services for bulk-liquid chemicals, edible oils, acids and clean petroleum products. Its fleet is integrated with Stolt Tankers’ deep-sea fleets in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean; with coastal fleets in Asia; and with inland barging services in Europe and the US Gulf.