Berlin On the Rhine, Germany’s most important waterway, there are no signs of an end to the extreme low water due to the lack of rainfall – on the contrary: in Emmerich near the border with the Netherlands, a record low water level of just four centimeters was measured on Monday.
This undercut the previous low of autumn 2018 with seven centimeters at the time, as the Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV) announced via the Elwis portal. According to the authority’s forecast, a level of zero could even be reached on Tuesday. The water level is not synonymous with the fairway depth, which is decisive for shipping. In Emmerich, this was just under two meters.
The water level near Kaub in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is important for shipping on the Rhine, also fell further at the beginning of the week: from 37 centimeters on Sunday to just 32 centimeters at the beginning of the new week. “Ships are still sailing, but fewer and with less cargo,” said the spokesman for the Rhine Waterways and Shipping Office, Florian Krekel, on Monday to the Reuters news agency about the consequences. “Traffic hasn’t come to a complete standstill yet.”
For the next three to four days, it is predicted that the water levels further downstream on the Lower Rhine will fall by another five to ten centimeters, as the office emphasized. On the Middle Rhine, the level is likely to remain constant for the most part.
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and
be notified by email.
“The 14-day forecasts continue to point to a slight increase in water levels from the middle of this week,” it said. “However, this is not significant, the water levels remain at a low level.”
>> Read here: Drought and lack of energy alternatives – France’s nuclear power plants overheat rivers
In Cologne, for example, the water level is approaching the record low of 2018. “This has extreme effects on the Rhine waterway,” said the spokesman for Cologne Ports and Freight Transport, Christian Lorenz, to Reuters. He cited salt deliveries from Heilbronn as an example. Rock salt, which is important for the chemical industry, is transported across the Rhine.
The low water level puts the BASF group under pressure
“At the beginning of March, the ships could still be loaded with around 2,200 tons,” said Lorenz, whose company includes HGK Shipping GmbH in Duisburg with around 350 ships and 50 percent of the port operator RheinCargo. “Because of the low water levels, only 600 tons were finally possible.” In 2018, at times only 300 tons were feasible. “We’re getting closer to that,” the spokesman said.
The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities such as grain, chemicals, minerals, coal and oil products such as heating oil. The low water, which has been going on for weeks, is already affecting the performance of two German coal-fired power plants. The chemical company BASF had stated that it could not rule out production cuts if the low water disrupted logistics.
>> Read also: The low water in the Rhine is also a political failure – a comment
According to economists, the problems on the Rhine make a recession in Germany even more likely. “In any case, we expect that the German economy will fall into a slight recession from the third quarter and that growth in 2022 should only be 1.2 percent,” said Stefan Schneider, Chief Economist for Germany at Deutsche Bank. “If water levels continue to drop, growth could also fall just under one percent.”
Due to the tense energy situation, the limited coal transport for the power plants along the Rhine is probably the biggest problem this time. Higher transport costs are likely to create additional upward pressure on the producer prices of the goods concerned.
More: Heat wave makes delivery of coal and fuel more difficult – these are the consequences for Germany’s economy