The drought lasting months in Germany has left a significant mark on the state of inland waterway transport. On the Rhine, the most important waterway in Europe, commercial transport is now very limited. The first effects in the form of an increase in freight rates and fuel prices are already visible.
The annual volume of inland water transport in Germany is around 223 million tonnes of goods. Due to the critically low water level on the Rhine, the movement of large barges and ships (tankers and container ships) was completely stopped. Smaller barges can now transport only 30 percent of loads. According to the Federal Association for German Inland Navigation, this situation means daily losses for transport companies amounting to 4,000 euros.
Companies limit production
The low water level on the Rhine is also a big challenge for heavy industry. The volume of cargo carried by this branch of the economy is so large that it cannot be completely transferred to rail and road transport.
This is a challenge, but the situation is under control,” says Jan Zeese, spokesman for the Shell refinery in an interview with Generalanzeiger Bonn.
Because Shell mainly used water transport, due to the low Rhine level and high freight prices, it temporarily decided to reduce production, as many others did.
Chaos at gas stations
Refineries are also trying to switch to alternative forms of transport, but it is not so easy. 80 trucks are needed to replace one tanker. There are huge traffic jams in front of the warehouses. As a result, the fuel for gas stations does not arrive on time. According to Koelner Express, the supply problem affected especially Cologne and the surrounding area, where some of the distributors at petrol stations were out of service.
The situation is simply dramatic,” says Stephan Zieger, managing director of the Federal Association of Gas Stations in Bonn.
Fuel prices are rising
A spokeswoman for energy operator Knauber, Maike Hagedorn, in the „Generalanzeiger Bonn” confirmed the relationship between rising fuel prices and the low level of the Rhine. The limited load capacity of the barges led to a significant increase in freight rates. This, in turn, increased the prices of heating oil and fuel.
According to ADAC, the Super E10 only climbed 2.7 cents a liter in the last week and now costs 1.541 euros per liter. Drivers of diesel cars in Germany have to pay up to 4 cents more. The price per liter is currently 1,438 euros.