After significant declines, the Rhine Waterways and Shipping Office expects a small wave with slightly rising water levels in the next few days – but without a fundamental trend reversal.

A small wave is coming from the Upper Rhine, which will lead to the water levels rising slightly on the Middle Rhine, the office said in a statement on Tuesday. This will also affect the levels on the Lower Rhine in the next few days.

Overall, however, despite slight increases, the water levels continued to be in the range of an average low water level, explained the Rhine Waterways and Shipping Office. The 14-day forecast indicates that the water levels will drop again slightly after the wave has passed. According to the announcement, a further drop in water levels by a few centimeters is predicted for the next few days below Duisburg-Ruhrort.

The Waterways and Shipping Office Rhine for Emmerich just before the Dutch border already shows a water level of minus one centimeter – measured on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. Historical lows were determined on Monday and Tuesday for this northernmost measuring point of the Rhine water level in Germany.

In the meantime, even negative values ​​are reported there. However, the water level should not be confused with the fairway, which according to the most recent overview still has a depth of 1.95 meters near Emmerich.

On a section of the Rhine, the level had 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.