May 8, 2017

BASF optimizes logistics at Ludwigshafen site

  • Digitalization enables significant cost savings
  • Shunting to be replaced by fully automated transport

A new integrated storage and logistics concept will help BASF significantly reduce logistics costs. The transport volume at the Ludwigshafen site is around 20 million metric tons per year. Since the transport links at the Ludwigshafen site account for a considerable share of costs, this is the focus of the concept.

The most important components will be automated guided vehicles (AGVs), new optimized-for-rail tank containers instead of railway tank cars, and a new tank container depot. This combination will lead to a considerable improvement in terms of competitiveness. “We are launching this innovative leap in logistics at the site and we are a pioneer for the entire industry,” said Site Manager Dr. Uwe Liebelt.

Deliveries in record time with driverless vehicles
The AGV is a worldwide first. Together with the VDL Group, BASF developed this autonomous vehicle which is 16.5 meters long and has a payload of 78 metric tons. With its 32 wheels and eight steerable axles, it is maneuverable and does not cause any damage to roads even though it can weigh as much as 100 metric tons. The AGV is steered via transponders embedded in the road surface. It currently takes around 22 hours for a railway tank car to be delivered from BASF’s train station to one of the more than 150 loading stations at the site. With the AGV, this time will be cut to just one hour.

During the current test phase, which runs until July, the prototype only operates within a limited area, where it carries empty containers or containers filled with water and is monitored by a control center. Until now, similar vehicles have only been used in international ports, where they use routes exclusively reserved for them.

New tank containers are more efficient than railway tank cars
The new 45 and 52-foot tank containers were developed by BASF and the Belgian tank container manufacturer van Hool based on the technology of 20 and 30-foot containers, which are already being used in combined transport. The BASF class tank containers (B-TC) can be transported with container railway wagons, so they offer greater flexibility than traditional railway tank cars. The B-TC has a maximum volume of 73,000 liters and a payload of 66 metric tons, meaning its load capacity is double that of today’s typical tank containers and similar to that of a chemical rail tank car. The B-TC can be transported on any kind of railway tracks and can be stored efficiently – up to six can be stacked atop each other. From July, 90 of them will be in use in Ludwigshafen and another 550 will be delivered in 2018.

Tank container depot links transport routes
Another part of the logistics concept is the fully automated tank container depot, which is currently under construction at the Ludwigshafen site. It is designed to have a capacity of 2,000 standard (20-foot) container equivalents and has two automatic staking cranes, each with a loading capacity of 75 metric tons. It is trimodal, meaning that goods can be handled via AGVs, trucks and rail. The tank container depot is scheduled to begin operations in mid-2018.

About BASF
At BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. The approximately 114,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Our portfolio is organized into five segments: Chemicals, Performance Products, Functional Materials & Solutions, Agricultural Solutions and Oil & Gas. BASF generated sales of about €58 billion in 2016. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt (BAS), London (BFA) and Zurich (BAS). Further information at


The optimized-for-rail BASF class tank containers (B-TC) can be transported on railway as well as on street and thereby offer more flexibility than traditional railway tank cars. The B-TC is about twice as long as a typical tank container. It has a maximum volume of 73,500 liters and a payload of 66 metric tons.

Tank container and automated guided vehicle can be used independently. This saves time and money.

Last Update May 8, 2017