Low water aggravates situation on the German Danube

Inland waterway transport is stranded; big and heavy freight ships have to stop their journeys

Low water aggravates situation on the German Danube

The months-long drought in Germany leaves a clear mark on inland waterway transport. The rivers rarely carry water in some places. On the Rhine – the most important inland waterway in the whole of Europe – shipping to the south of Germany had to be stopped partly, after historical lows were measured at the Kaub gauge, for example.

On the Elbe, commercial shipping was stopped months ago. And on the Danube, the 70-kilometer-long route between Straubing and Vilshofen, which has been neglected for decades, causes considerable difficulties, as river expansion measures are not taking place there.

The dryness that has persisted since June is not only noticeable in the free-flowing rivers, but also in the dammed rivers and canals. Here too, the navigability is limited due to sinking water levels, writes the Federal Association of German Inland Navigation e.V. (BDB) in a release.

The consequences for commercial shipping and its customers from economy and industry are serious. Although shipping in Germany has not been completely stopped to date. That would collapse the economic location Germany with an annual transport volume on the water of about 223 million tons of goods. These quantities cannot be shifted to rail or road.

However, large and accordingly heavy vessels which sink deeply into the water – for example as used in container traffic or tanker shipping – must stop their trips. They are now waiting in the ports for rising levels. The results are earnings losses of up to EUR 4,000 per day and in some cases even more, which are not compensated by anyone.

Inland waterway skippers with smaller or lighter ships can only load them with significantly lower quantities, otherwise they run danger of touching ground or getting even stuck in the river. With significantly more trips and additional costs, the industry is striving to minimize the impact on its customers. Nevertheless, freight contracts can sometimes no longer be fulfilled on time. Raw materials that are important to industry, such as in the chemical industry, must, if necessary, change modes of transport and be transported by truck.

The BDB therefore addresses the appeal to politicians and administrators to give priority to important expansion measures on rivers and canals and to implement them as quickly as possible. “Bottlenecks have to be eliminated and trafficability has to be optimized,” a press release demands. Predictability and reliability of transport are decisive criteria in the choice of means of transport.

In addition, the Confederation must develop strategies to mitigate the effects of climatic changes on waterways and shipping industry. It proposes river engineering measures so that the transfer of goods traffic to water, as desired by politicians, the economy and the population, can take place.


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