Work has begun on Europe’s two largest-ever butane river tankers, at the VEKA shipyard at Lemmer (Netherlands). Each vessel is around three times the size of today’s typical Rhine barges.

The vessels – the result of a working partnership between INEOS Trading & Shipping and Imperial Logistics – will transport gas from the world’s largest butane tank, currently being constructed at the Oiltanking Antwerp Gas Terminal (OTAGT) in the Port of Antwerp, Belgium, to the INEOS cracker site in Köln, Germany.

INEOS, Imperial Logistics and VEKA have worked closely together on the design, planning and construction of the state-of-the-art vessels, which will measure 110 metres long with a beam of 17.5 metres, and have capacities of 3,024 tonnes of butane carried in six tanks. Each of the barges will be powered by three engines.

The new tankers will also have increased collision protection, and their auxiliary power units will have full sound insulation to comply with noise regulations at the unloading points.

Says Hugh Carmichael, Director INEOS Trading & Shipping: “INEOS is committed to investing over USD 1 billion in its ethane supply chain from the USA. Our new butane tank in Antwerp, together with these massive new river barges, mark the next step in a strategic investment in the future of our naphtha crackers in Cologne. This upscaled supply system will increase our flexibility and resilience, and position INEOS as a front-runner in the global LPG market.”

Adds Anke Bestmann, Director of Imperial Logistics International’s Gas Shipping Business Unit: “This is a great day for INEOS and Imperial Logistics, as we start to put in place the infrastructure necessary to upgrade the INEOS supply line to meet future demand. We are pleased and proud to be INEOS’ partner in this ground-breaking project, and to bring our experience and knowledge to bear on this innovative solution.”

VEKA owner Peter Versluis concludes: “It is an honour to work with INEOS and Imperial Logistics on this exciting new venture, which sets new standards for gas tanker construction in Europe. We look forward to the launch of the first mega-tanker in late 2019.”

The two new vessels are among four on order by INEOS and Imperial Logistics; the other two are slightly smaller at 110 meters long x 15 metres beam, with two engines and capacities of 2,428 tonnes of butane.

Senior executives of INEOS and Imperial Logistics were among over 40 VIP guests attending the keel-laying ceremony at VEKA’s Lemmer yard.