Rhine River’s water levels are expected to fall again as dry weather forecasted for the coming days – more delays to operations anticipated.
Levels had recently rebounded, but continuous heatwaves and little rainfall are draining Rhine’s waters again causing disruptions and driving high freight rates.
The disruption could knock half a percentage point off economic growth in Germany this year, according to Reuters.
Shallow water forced barges to sail at only about 25 per cent full capacity this month, leading to an increase in costs for cargo owners who had to deploy more vessels.
The reference water level at the chokepoint of Kaub WL-KAUB near Koblenz was at 1.20 metres on 24 August, against only 32 centimetres on 26 August.
Vessels need about 1.5 metres of Kaub reference waterline to sail fully loaded.
“We ship operators are breathing a sigh of relief but only temporarily,” said Roberto Spranzi, Director of the DTG shipping cooperative which operates about 100 cargo vessels on the Rhine.
“If you load a ship in Rotterdam with coal now you have to calculate what the Kaub level will be in three to four days when the vessel arrives there, and we are expecting a sharp fall in Kaub again next week.
“We need lasting increases in water levels to operate normally.”
The Rhine River is a major petroleum product transportation node in Europe.
Oil industry company Shell recently slashed its refinery output as low water levels halted the flow of goods, according to a company’s release.
In the meantime, ports in Germany struck a landmark collective bargaining agreement with its workers after months of strikes unrest – as inland Europe’s supply chain may finally some relief.