Europe logistics headaches to intensify as Rhine levels fall

Tom Brown


LONDON (ICIS)–Logistics issues in Europe could be set to intensify as water levels along crucial shipping artery the River Rhine continue to fall amid hot, dry weather in northwestern Europe, with water height at points expected to fall below 80cm by the weekend.

Water levels at the Kaub measuring point, located above Frankfurt, fell below 110cm at midday local time on Tuesday, according to projections from Germany’s Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV).

Levels below 120cm at Kaub – a key chokepoint for water-borne freight – are when shipping along the river starts to be affected, and the declines projected through the rest of the week are likely to substantially reduce the loads that tankers can carry.

Water levels at Kaub are expected to fall close to 100cm before the end of the day, according to WSV forecasts, dwindling further to 96cm by Wednesday night, and to 78cm by the morning of 16 July. More normal water levels would be around 200cm.

Northwestern Europe is currently in the middle of a heatwave, with no substantial rainfall expected this week.

Many large chemicals production complexes are located along that stretch of the Rhine, and also depend on water from the river for cooling and other purposes at the plants. Aside from impacting on tanker loads and delivery schedules, the low water levels are also expected to intensify demand for road and rail transport.

Speaking on Tuesday, one market contact noted that disruption around the Dusseldorf, Germany, area is limited, but that the falling river levels will place additional pressure on a heavy goods vehicle sector already dogged by a shortage of drivers.

Low water levels may also hit Germany’s preparation measures for a potential total cessation of gas flows from Russia.

The German government has set out plans to build gas reserves ahead of the crucial winter period, including reopening mothballed coal plants. Due to the current shallow water levels, the amount of coal and other energy products that ships can carry has fallen sharply, potentially delaying deliveries and further intensifying demand for space on ships, trains and trucks.

Source: WSV

Additional reporting by Nazif Nazmul, Zubair Adam and Nel Weddle

Thumbnail picture: A coal-fired power plant overlooking the Rhine (Source: Ronald Wittek/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)


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