German shipping faces curbs over drought-driven low water levels

The domestic German shipping industry is facing restrictions because of low water levels as a result of the ongoing period of hot, dry weather.

On the country’s busiest waterway, the river Rhine, ships are being forced to carry lighter loads, Directorate-General of German Waterways and Shipping told dpa on Friday.

Shipping on the Elbe, which flows from the Czech Republic through eastern Germany to the North Sea via Hamburg, and the Oder along the border with Poland, is also restricted.

“If the warm high-pressure weather continues and no significant rain falls, the water levels will fall further,” spokeswoman Claudia Thoma said.

“If so, shipping transport will come to a halt on certain stretches,” she said, adding that the transport of goods on Germany’s rivers could become more expensive.

If there is no rain in the coming days, shipping on the Danube could also be suspended, according to Jens Schwanen, the chairman of the Federal Association for German Domestic Shipping.

The Rhine is most critical, though, as the association says that 80 per cent of German domestic shipping moves along this river.

The levels have not yet reached the record lows of the summer of 2003: the directorate-general says the Rhine’s level is 50 centimetres deeper than then.

There are some areas where there are no restrictions thanks to a system of lock gates that regulates water levels, such as in the canals of western Germany and the rivers Moselle, Neckar, Main, Weser and Havel.

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