AP

Rhine River could fall below critical mark, risking industry

Aug 10, 2022, 7:42 AM | Updated: 11:25 pm

The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. The low w...

The river Rhine is pictured with low water in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. The low water levels are threatening Germany's industry as more and more ships are unable to traverse the key waterway. Severe drought will worsen in Europe in August as a hot and dry summer persists. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Water levels on the Rhine River could reach a critically low point in the coming days, German officials said Wednesday, making it increasingly difficult to transport goods — including coal and gasoline — as drought and an energy crisis grip Europe.

Weeks of dry weather have turned several of Europe’s major waterways into trickles, posing a headache for German factories and power plants that rely on deliveries by ship and making an economic slowdown ever more likely. Transporting goods by inland waterways is more important in Germany than in many other Western European countries, according to Capital Economics.

“This is particularly the case for the Rhine, whose nautical bottleneck at Kaub has very low water levels but which remains navigable for ships with small drafts,” said Tim Alexandrin, a spokesman for Germany’s Transport Ministry.

Authorities predict that water levels at Kaub will dip below the mark of 40 centimeters (16 inches) early Friday and keep falling over the weekend. While this is still higher than the record low of 27 centimeters seen in October 2018, many large ships could struggle to safely pass the river at that spot, located roughly mid-way along the Rhine between Koblenz and Mainz.

“The situation is quite dramatic, but not as dramatic yet as in 2018,” said Christian Lorenz, a spokesman for the German logistics company HGK.

From France and Italy, Europe is struggling with dry spells, shrinking waterways and heat waves that are becoming more severe and frequent because of climate change. Low water levels are another blow for industry in Germany, which is struggling with shrinking flows of natural gas that have sent prices surging.

Due to the lack of water, ships bringing salt down the Rhine River from Heilbronn to Cologne that would normally carry 2,200 metric tons (2,425 U.S. tons) of cargo are only able to transport about 600 tons, he said.

“Of course, we hope that shipping won’t be halted, but we saw in 2018 that when water levels got very low the gas stations suddenly had no more fuel because ships couldn’t get through,” Lorenz said.

Authorities are taking steps to shift more goods traffic onto the rail network and, if necessary, give it priority, said Alexandrin, the Transport Ministry spokesman.

Those other options will be more expensive and take longer, with the higher cost making it impossible in some cases, said Andrew Kenningham, chief Europe economist for Capital Economics.

The river transportation issues are not problematic for German industry as shrinking flows and rising prices for natural gas, he said, with Russia having reduced deliveries to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of capacity. But the woes on the Rhine could still take a small bite out of economic growth if they last until December, add a bit to already-high inflation and lead industrial production to drop slightly, the economist said.

But with Capital Economics already expecting flat economic growth in Germany in the third quarter and a contraction in the last three months of the year, “the low water level in the Rhine simply makes a recession even more likely,” Kenningham said.

HGK and other shipping companies are preparing for a “new normal” in which low water levels become more common as global warming makes droughts more severe, sapping water along the length of the Rhine from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea.

“There’s no denying climate change and the industry is adjusting to it,” said Lorenz.

All new ships being ordered by the company will be built with a view to making them suitable for low water levels on the Rhine, he said.

___

Jordans reported from Berlin.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

19 hours ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

20 hours ago

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

5 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

6 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

13 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Rhine River could fall below critical mark, risking industry