Rain Raises Rhine River Levels in Germany; North Still Too Shallow

July 26, 2023

Cologne - Credit: Luis/AdobeStock
Cologne - Credit: Luis/AdobeStock

Heavy rain has raised water levels on the Rhine in Germany, but the river is still too shallow in central northern areas for cargo vessels to sail fully loaded, commodity traders said on Wednesday.

The river is a major western European shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, coal and oil products. 

Dry weather in June meant it became too shallow for vessels to sail fully loaded and operators imposed surcharges on freight rates to compensate for ships sailing partly empty, increasing costs for cargo owners.

As increasingly frequent low water on the Rhine disrupts Europe's largest economy, its industry is finding new ways to ship cargoes, including the use of low-water barges.

Water in southern sections of the river is rising after rain in past days with levels raised by 0.5 metres (20 inches) in some places on Wednesday, traders said. An improvement is expected as water flows north, they added. 

Water at the chokepoint of Kaub, between Koblenz and Cologne, rose sharply on Wednesday after hitting its lowest so far this year earlier this week and could reach levels allowing full vessel loadings on Friday or Saturday, they said.

The Rhine is still too shallow for normal sailings in northern areas between Cologne and Duisburg. Some vessels, depending on type, are sailing under half full in northern regions, the traders said. More rain forecast on Wednesday and in coming days could provide improvement.

"So far this summer, we have had enough rain to prevent a crisis on the river," one commodity trader said. "Low water has increased costs but cargo has been delivered."

German companies faced supply bottlenecks and production problems in summer 2022 after a drought and heat wave led to unusually low water levels on the Rhine. 


 (Reuters - Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by John Stonestreet)

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