Germany: A major river in Europe hit by drought could create economic havoc


By Holly Ellyatt

A heatwave in Europe is causing low water levels on the River Rhine — one of the continent’s most important shipping routes — which could weigh further on Germany’s vulnerable economy, experts have told CNBC.


Flowing from its source in Switzerland, via Germany and the Netherlands into the North Sea, the Rhine is used as a shipping route and is particularly important for transporting agricultural products, commodities like coal and oil, and chemicals production. At 1,223 kilometers long, the Rhine is the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe (after the Danube) passing through major cities and ports like Cologne, Dusseldorf, Rotterdam and Basel.

With Rhine water levels in 2018 reduced to just 30cm in some parts, this made it unnavigable for larger cargo barges prompting many producers to resort to using other means of transport or smaller barges. Although parts of the river remained usable, many barges were not able to fully load and were forced to ship smaller amounts, pushing freight costs up for producers.

According to the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR), a body that regulates the Rhine’s navigation, the Rhine saw a 27% drop in transport performance in the third quarter of 2018, compared with the same period in the previous year, because of low water levels. Europe’s other major river, the Danube, also saw its transport performance fall by 10%.


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