Will the Low Water Levels in the Rhine River Create Supply Chain Issues? 

Low water levels on the Rhine River in Europe are still apparent, but Germany’s Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) have yet to announce any closures to commercial barge traffic. But, some adjustments have been made.  

“It is part of the daily business in inland navigation to adjust the amount of cargo, and thus the drought of the ship, to the current water levels on the respective route,” Florian Krekel, an agency spokesperson for the WSA told the Journal of Commerce (JOC).

However, ships that are operating are restricted to only carrying 25-33 percent of their maximum load. The JOC notes that the reason for that restriction is to make sure they are able to pass through Kaub, which is the shallowest section of the middle Rhine, where the fairway depth was under five feet on Tuesday.  

Heatwaves Throughout Europe Causing Drought 

This summer has been a hot one for many areas in the world. Europe especially has been hit with some extra hot weather, producing heatwaves throughout the summer which has caused extensive drought.  

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps noted that Britain’s transportation infrastructure has been struggling with handling the heat, saying, “it just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature – and it will be many years before we can replace infrastructure with the kind of infrastructure that could.”  

The drought that has occurred from the heatwaves has impacted the water levels of major rivers, lakes and inland seas. Something to keep in mind as well are the direct links to power, transportation, shipping and recreational activities for millions of people.  

Freight transport accounts for 80 percent of Europe’s inland waterway freight on the Rhine River, as the river flows through major cities and ports, including Rotterdam and Antwerp – data shows.  

Latest Update 

Barge transport has been challenging. Trimodal operator Contargo, recently announced they would be discontinuing their barge navigation on the Upper and Middle Rhine – Port Technology reported. They plan to position their barge fleet in a way they are able to safely unload containers at their terminals.  

The latest update shows the Rhine River’s water level has hit a new low. However – rain is in the forecast this weekend. With the water level expected to rise above a critical level, which is encouraging news for shippers, especially those that ship vital commodities throughout inland Europe, Bloomberg reports.  

As stated above, the WSA has not imposed shipping restrictions but noting that when water levels are low, less cargo is able to be transported, American Journal of Transportation said.  

Looking Ahead 

We will continue to update you on the latest topics in the industry. As always, if you would like more information regarding this topic, contact our team at InterlogUSA and we will be happy to assist you on any questions or comments you may have! In addition, we have our weekly market updates that can provide you with relevant freight news, updates, developments across the industry, and more.  


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