Rhine Running Dry, Adding to Europe Energy Woes

August 10, 2022

Telegraph:

Germany’s Rhine river will become impassable for barges carrying coal, oil and gas later this week, in a devastating blow to factories upriver.

Levels at Kaub, a key point along the waterway west of Frankfurt, are predicted to fall to below 40cm on Friday, according to the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration.

At that chokepoint, the river becomes effectively impassable for many barges, which use the Rhine to move a range of goods including coal, oil and gas.

Water levels will then fall further to 37cm on Saturday, officials warned.

The river runs from Switzerland through France and Germany to the Netherlands, where it joins the North Sea.

UPDATE:

Bloomberg:

The Rhine — a pillar of the German, Dutch and Swiss economies for centuries — is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint later this week, stymieing vast flows of diesel and coal. The Danube, which snakes its way 1,800 miles through central Europe to the Black Sea, is gummed up too, hampering grain and other trade.

Across Europe, transport is just one of the elements of river-based commerce that’s been upended by climate change. France’s power crisis has worsened because the Rhone and Garonne are too warm to effectively cool nuclear reactors, and Italy’s Po is too low to water rice fields and sustain clams for “pasta alle vongole.”

While disruptions to waterways would be a challenge at the best of times, the region is already on the brink of recession as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuels inflation by squeezing food and energy supplies. The situation — just four years after a historic halt to Rhine shipping — adds urgency to European Union efforts to make inland shipping more resilient.

The continent’s rivers and canals convey more than 1 ton of freight annually for each EU resident and contribute around $80 billion to the region’s economy just as a mode of transport, according to calculations based on Eurostat figures. But the fallout from dried-up waterways goes deeper.

“It’s not just about commercial navigation. It’s about freshening up when it’s hot, it’s about irrigating and so many other things,” said Cecile Azevard, director at French water operator VNF. “Rivers are part of our heritage.”

The poor conditions are expected to drag down the region’s economies far worse than the 5 billion-euro ($5.1 billion) hit caused by Rhine transit issues in 2018, according to Albert Jan Swart, a transportation economist at ABN Amro Bank NV. 

“The capacity for inland shipping is going to be severely limited as long as there’s not a lot of rain in the area,” he said. “You also get the damage caused in Germany by the high electricity prices. We’re talking billions.”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: