Saturday 06 March 2021

Drought impact: Inland shipping hit by low level of Dutch rivers


The dry summer throughout northern Europe is resulting in lower water levels on the rivers entering the Netherlands. As a result larger numbers of barges are needed to transport the same amount of cargo as capacity is reduced on all vessels, the Financieele Dagblad wrote on Tuesday.

The FD said this was most noticeable on Rhine river branches Waal and IJssel. Ships on these rivers must carry considerably lower levels of cargo or risk being stranded on the continuously shifting river bottom.

As a result the waterways are becoming more crowded. In addition, some ships which normally stop for the night are now operating 24/7. The European inland waterway fleet of some 10,000 vessels still has overcapacity, but this is declining in certain sectors such as containers.

River levels have to fall another 60cm to 80cm before there is real cause for concern, said Joost Sitskoorn, deputy director of shippers lobby group Evofenedex.

Freight charges always rise when river waters fall, said another industry expert:  ‘It’s a yearly recurring ritual.’  But it usually occurs at the end of August or early September.

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