On a section of the Rhine, the water level has fallen to zero due to a lack of rainfall. This value was measured on Tuesday on the Lower Rhine in Emmerich near the border with the Netherlands, said the spokesman for the Rhine Waterways and Shipping Office, Christian Hellbach, the Reuters news agency.
It was only on Monday that the previous record low of October 2018 was undercut by three centimeters. The water level is not synonymous with the fairway depth, which is decisive for shipping. This was recently just under two meters in Emmerich. “Ships can continue to operate,” said Hellbach. “But they must adjust their charge accordingly.”
The Federation of German Industries (BDI) warns of serious consequences in view of the development on Germany’s most important waterway. “The persistent dry period and the low water threaten the security of supply for industry,” said Deputy BDI General Manager Holger Loesch.
“Companies are preparing for the worst. The already tense economic situation in the companies is getting worse.” Inland waterway vessels can currently only operate with minimal capacity utilization – “if at all”. Switching to rail and road is difficult because of the bottlenecks on the rails, the corona pandemic and the lack of drivers.
“It is only a matter of time before plants in the chemical or steel industry are shut down, mineral oils and building materials do not reach their destination or large-volume and heavy transports can no longer be carried out,” said Loesch. Delivery bottlenecks, production cutbacks or even standstills and short-time work would be the result.
The low water could further exacerbate the emergency in the energy supply. According to the BDI, the political plans to temporarily rely more on coal in view of the gas crisis would be thwarted by massive transport bottlenecks.
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. According to economists, the problems on the Rhine make a recession 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.