The persistently low water levels in European rivers, notably the Rhine and its tributaries, have posed challenges for inland vessel operations in recent summers. HGK Shipping, a leading European inland waterway shipping company, is devising innovative solutions to tackle these water level issues and enhance its operations.
With a fleet of over 350 company and chartered vessels, HGK Shipping annually transports approximately 43 million tonnes of cargo. The company is actively exploring various designs and drive systems to address industry challenges. This includes diesel-electric hybrid drive systems for new vessels, as well as conceptualizing purely electric or hydrogen-powered inland waterway vessels. HGK is also conducting trials for partially autonomous navigation using sensor technology on its vessels.
One of their notable innovations is the Gas 94, a gas tanker that combines an inventive diesel-electric drive system with a shallow-water-optimized ship design. This design ensures the delivery of essential supplies to recipients even when the water levels in the river Rhine are critically low. The vessel became operational in the third quarter of 2021.
HGK recently placed an order for another pioneering vessel, the Gas 96, at a Dutch shipyard, De Gerlien van Tiem Scheepsreparatie – Nieuwbouw. Designed to navigate low water levels, the Gas 96 features an extra-wide design and the company's new diesel-electric drive system. This vessel will maintain a 300-ton capacity even with a draft restriction lowered to 1.2 meters. With a length of 360 feet and a beam of 49 feet, it can carry a maximum load of 2,500 tonnes.
Furthermore, the Gas 96 is designed to accommodate future fuels and can be retrofitted for alternative fuels. It will also be equipped to transport ammonia. This innovative gas tanker is set to be operational in the fourth quarter of 2025, with construction commencing in Eastern Europe and final work taking place at the De Gerlien Van Tiem shipyard in the Netherlands.
Reports suggest that the vessel will operate under a long-term charter arrangement with two chemical companies based in Denmark and Germany.
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