Critical water levels on Germany’s waterways

Restrictions on inland shipping due to flooding on numerous German rivers

Critical water levels on Germany’s waterways

“For several days now, due to prolonged rainfall, there has been a sharp increase in the level of numerous free-flowing and impounded German rivers, including waterways that are relevant for commercial inland shipping. Added to this comes the current snowmelt, which has already led or will in the coming days lead, to the exceeding of the flood levels defined at the individual gauges,” writes the Bundesverband der Deutschen Binnenschifffahrt (Federal Association of German Inland Navigation e.V.; BDB) in a release.

Along the Rhine and its tributaries, the exceeding of the relevant flood levels of several gauges is forecasted, including Mainz, Kaub and Cologne, so that shipping is likely to be discontinued shortly – as was already the case on 5 January on the Upper Rhine (Maxau). Reasons for this lie in the combination of increased precipitation and thaw in southwest Germany and Switzerland.

The increased drainage volumes lead to a “wave formation” which causes the water levels in the Upper Rhine and the tributaries to increase in the short term. Declining rainfall and declining temperatures should lead to a relaxation of the situation over the next few weeks.

The tributaries of the Rhine are also affected by the high water levels. For example, shipping on the Moselle, the Saar and parts of the Neckar is currently suspended. On the Neckar, only relocation to the truck takes place in Heilbronn’s chemical industry, as it has to be supplied independently of the flood. In the other relevant goods groups on the Neckar (building materials, coal, scrap), this effect has not yet been observed to any great extent. On the Neckar it is expected that shipping will be resumed in the first half of the third calendar week.

“Such flood situationsare not uncommon at this time of year. In the past, one spoke in the trade always of the so-called “Advent Flood”. Both the shipping industry and its customers are therefore prepared for this. Either a supply of surplus quantities was made in advance or the customers will be served regularly after the flood has drained away. Therefore, relocation of transport to road or rail does not have to be expected in the case of short-term blockages for shipping. In container transport in hinterland traffic of seaports, there may be delays. At present, serious economic damage to the industry is not to be expected,” informs the Federal Association of German Inland Navigation.