A ship sails through the narrow channel left by the low water in the Rhine while people watch from the sandbanks in Osterpai, Germany, August 16. 2022. REUTERS/Benjamin Westhoff

Veteran Barge Company Warns Upper Rhine River Shipping at Risk

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August 16, 2022

By Jack Wittels (Bloomberg) —

A veteran Rhine shipping company said its business on the Upper Rhine is at risk as water levels drop.

Of the roughly 150 tanker barges that Jaegers Group has on the river, no more than about 10% would be able to carry goods through the key waypoint of Kaub with the water marker at 30 centimeters (11.8 inches). Currently, the figure at that point in the river is 32 centimeters.

A further drop below the 20-centimeter level at Kaub — south of Cologne — could knock out the company’s operations going through that point completely. 

“Not our ships, and not any ship I know of, can go below Kaub 20,” said Gunther Jaegers, a managing director at Reederei Jaegers GmbH, referring to vessels carrying cargo.

Low Water on Rhine Threatens Germany’s Economic Growth

Kaub is closely watched because it’s narrow and shallow, and barges need to get past that point to access parts of south Germany and Switzerland. At least one shipping company is using trucks to move goods to inland areas.

The water marker at Kaub that’s used by operators to calculate draft is forecast to stay in a range of 31-34 centimeters into early Saturday morning local time, according to the latest government data.

“Even under difficult shipping conditions, inland shipping is doing everything possible to ensure the supply of goods and raw materials to business and industry,” Martin Staats, president of the Federal Association of German Inland Shipping said in a statement. “Dangers are taken up to the limit of what is physically possible — and as long as safety is guaranteed.”

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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