Relief as Rhine water rises in Germany, but expected to drop again

A cargo ship on the Rhine River near Lobith in the Netherlands, on its way to Germany on Aug 22, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

HAMBURG (REUTERS) - Water levels on the Rhine river in Germany have risen after recent rain but are expected to fall again, with mostly dry weather forecast in coming days, said ship operators on Wednesday (Aug 24).

Weeks of high temperatures and scant rainfall drained water levels in the river, a major German commercial transport artery.

It caused delays to shipping and pushed freight costs up.

The disruption could knock half a percentage point off economic growth in Germany this year.

Shallow water compelled some freight vessels to sail at only about 25 per cent full in August, increasing costs for cargo owners who needed more vessels to get supplies delivered.

The reference water level at the chokepoint of Kaub WL-KAUB near Koblenz was at 1.2m on Wednesday against only 32cm last Friday. Vessels need about 1.5m of Kaub reference waterline to sail fully loaded.

But with largely dry weather forecast in the next week, water levels are expected to drop sharply again, said Mr Roberto Spranzi, director of the DTG shipping cooperative which operates about 100 cargo vessels on the Rhine.

"We ship operators are breathing a sigh of relief but only temporarily," Mr Spranzi said. "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 is an important shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, coal and oil products including heating oil.

Last Thursday, oil major Shell said it had to cut output at its German Rhineland refinery, which makes fuels, heating oil and petrochemicals, following transport disruption from low Rhine levels.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.