Dutch oil, chemicals and storage group Petroplus is one of the partners to launch an Internet-based portal and online exchange to transform the traditional Rhine-based shipping sector. Shippers, integrated barge owner companies, independent barge brokers and individual barge owners will have the opportunity to conduct business online through this portal, Petroplus said in a statement. The other founding shareholders of the project are BP Amoco, shipping and tank storage firm Royal Vopak and Germany's Marquard & Bahls AG which trades under the brand names Mabanaft and Oiltanking. The project is supported by the Rhine Barge Owners Association, Petroplus added. Management and technology consultancy Booz Allen & Hamilton will provide strategy and e-technology services to the venture. Petroplus said the portal would be a neutral market place, focusing on barge freight trading on the Rhine and associated waterways. It will be extended to provide content and services, including weather and information on Rhine levels and rates, pre and post fixture status updates, risk management, bunkering and maintenance and vetting checks. Petroplus said the Rhine transport market had an estimated size of $650 million per year for freight brokering transactions alone. An additional four billion euros is spent on services related to barge operations, it said.