Low Rhine level again causes transport problems
The Rhine, the backbone of river freight transport in Western Europe, is once again at risk of drying up. At Kaub, a key landmark near Frankfurt, the water level dropped by half (to 1,5 meters) in less than a month. This is due to the current heatwave, but mainly because of global warming in general. Glaciers and rain feed the river, with its source high in the Swiss Alps. But alpine ice flows have been plunging,
If the water level drops below 50 centimeters, the river will be considered impassable, and river traffic will be interrupted, with disastrous consequences for the German and European economy, and companies dependent on the river.
Higher transport costs
On the Belgian side, the Port of Antwerp considers the water level should drop below 1,40 m as from this morning, thus causing a significant drop in river traffic and above all a decrease in the volumes transported by boat.
In Liège, the third-largest inland port in Europe, the impact is less visible. Anyway, the inevitable shift to land transport that many companies will have to face will be accompanied by higher transport costs. For example, constraints on the Rhine cost BASF last year around 250 million euros by pushing the chemical maker to use more expensive transport options.
Adapting the supply chain
Already last year, the 1.233 km-long river between Basel and Rotterdam, crossing Germany and bordering France, suffered from drought and melting glaciers, making it impossible for industrial barges to pass through.
Fearing once again a prolonged period of drying up of the companies most dependent on the river, such as BASF, Daimler AF or Bayer, will have to adapt their supply chains again to limit the risks.
According to a report from the research house Pantheon Macroeconomics, the slump in Germany’s manufacturing sector in the final months of last year may have been exacerbated by that unusually low level of the Rhine river. In the Netherlands, the low level of the Rhine caused fuel shortages.