Stolt Ludwigshafen

BASF and Stolt Tankers introduce low-water chemical tanker Stolt Ludwigshafen

Norwegian chemical tanker company Stolt Tankers and Germany-based chemical producer BASF have hosted a christening ceremony for the new low-water inland tanker Stolt Ludwigshafen.

Stolt Ludwigshafen; Image credit: Stolt Tankers

The vessel was named at BASF’s Ludwigshafen site on May 26, 2023.

The ship’s godmother, Barbara Hoyer, Vice President of BASF, who played a key role in the project, wished the ship and her crew safe sailing with a traditional champagne christening.

The ship is the result of a partnership among BASF, Stolt Tankers, Mercurius Shipping Group, and a consortium consisting of Duisburger Entwicklungszentrum für Schiffstechnik und Transportsysteme, Technolog Services GmbH, and Agnos Consulting.

The innovative tanker features a special lightweight construction, allowing for high payloads even during extreme low water on the river Rhine. The ship launched operations for BASF at the end of April 2023.

Image credit: Stolt Tankers

“Following the extreme low water levels on the Rhine in 2018, we initiated an extensive program to improve climate resilience at Ludwigshafen site. With today’s christening of the Stolt Ludwigshafen, we are concluding the implementation of this diverse 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, President European Verbund Sites, BASF SE.

The Rhine River experienced low water levels in 2018 primarily due to a prolonged period of hot and dry weather conditions throughout the region. These conditions resulted in reduced rainfall and diminished water flow into the river. As a result, the water level in the Rhine decreased significantly, causing navigation difficulties and impacting various sectors, including inland transport.

The Rhine River is of great importance for German inland transport due to its role as a major waterway and trade route. It serves as a vital artery for transporting goods, including bulk commodities and containers, to and from major industrial regions in Germany and neighboring countries. The river connects to several important ports, such as Rotterdam in the Netherlands, which is one of Europe’s largest ports.

Drought also brought inland transportation along the Rhine to a standstill in 2022, with water levels at Kaub near Frankfurt, the shalowest part of the river, dropping below 40cm.

Specifically, drought and low Rhine water levels can be related to climate change through the influence of changing precipitation patterns and increased evaporation rates. As a result, shipowenrs are adjusting their vessels to mitigate the impacts of such occurrences while keeping their businesses in operation.

“This exciting project demonstrates Stolt Tankers’ commitment to developing new technologies and ship designs for a sustainable maritime industry. I am proud of the team involved in bringing the vision for a tanker that can operate at the lowest water levels on the Rhine to life. We are looking forward to operating the Stolt Ludwigshafen exclusively for BASF and contributing to the security of its supply chain in the region,” Lucas Vos, President of Stolt Tankers, said.

Stolt Ludwigshafen at a glance

The tanker was built between mid-2021 and 2023. The hull 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. After successful test trials, the Stolt Ludwigshafen completed its first trip for BASF at the end of April 2023.

The inland tanker has a unique design: to achieve a high load-bearing capacity, the dimensions of the new ship are 135 by 17.5 meters, which is considerably larger than conventional tankers on the Rhine.

To further optimize the cargo capacity, the hull features a special lightweight construction while ensuring high structural stability. Additionally, the ship has a hydrodynamically optimized hull, and a special propulsion system adapted to allow safe operation even under extreme low-water conditions.

These features allow the ship to pass the critical point in the river Rhine near Kaub with a cargo payload of 800 tonnes even at a gauge level of 30 centimeters (corresponding to a water depth of 1.6 meters). At moderately low water levels (e.g., Kaub gauge of 100 centimeters), its loading capacity of around 2,300 tonnes will be twice that of conventional inland vessels. Overall, the Stolt Ludwigshafen will feature a maximum loading capacity of 5,100 tonnes, Stolt Tankers explained.

The ship is powered by three electric motors, which are fed by Stage-V diesel generators with exhaust gas after treatment. The engines enable are expected to result in a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of around 30 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions of around 70 to 80 percent.

In the future, existing diesel generators will have the potential to be modified to allow the use of methanol as a fuel source or will be able to be replaced by other generator types (e.g., hydrogen fuel cells) once these technologies achieve market maturity.