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The Rhine closes to barge traffic

Significant low water levels caused by a lengthy heatwave across Europe this Summer have forced the closure of the Rhine for the first time in four years.

Over the weekend it has been reported that water levels dropped to just 32cm. Barge operator Contargo said: “For reasons of safety we shall largely discontinue our navigation on the Upper and Middle Rhine.” The closure of the German waterway was announced late on Friday as water levels on the Kaub gauge hit just 37cm. Water levels of 41cm are necessary for operations to continue, albeit at reduced loads, and many operators have been beginning barge services which are already at 20% capacity.

When water levels dropped below 81cm on the Kaub and 181cm on the Duisburg-Ruhrort late last month, Contargo imposed low water surcharges, and when levels dropped below 50cm last week, Contargo increased these. It was not alone in implementing low water surcharges, with other companies also following suit.

The river’s closure couldn’t come at a worse time for European supply chains, which are already contending with severe port congestion and the repercussions of the war in Ukraine. Now, many are also wondering how they can retrieve containers already out on barges when the closure was announced and get them to the nearest terminals for unloading.

Contargo told customers: “We will position our barge fleet in such a way as to be able to safely unload your containers at one of our terminals. We will do our utmost to continue to transport your containers. So long as the levels on the Lower Rhine allow inland navigation, we can transport containers via land bridge between the terminals on the Upper and Middle Rhine and our terminals on the Lower Rhine.”

If you have freight requirements to or from Europe and would like to explore creative solutions to move your goods during this time please do not hesitate to call or email our team OR click for a quote here.


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