The Rhine River is set to become virtually impassable at a key waypoint in Germany, as shallow water chokes off shipments of energy products and other industrial commodities along one of Europe’s most important waterways.
The marker at Kaub, west of Frankfurt, is forecast to drop to the critical depth of 40cm tomorrow, the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration said.
At that water level, barges that haul everything from diesel to coal are effectively unable to transit the river. The water level is forecast to fall as low as 37cm the following day.
Europe is facing its worst energy crisis in decades as Russia curbs natural gas flows, with regional tensions high over its invasion of Ukraine. That has sent prices soaring and pushed companies to use more oil and coal instead.
The energy crunch has spilled over into the broader economy, sending factory costs surging and threatening to push some of the continent’s largest economies into recession.
Now a climate crisis is adding to the region’s energy woes.
Used by vessels to haul vital commodities, the Rhine snakes about 1,300km from its source higher in the Swiss Alps through some of Europe’s most important industrial zones before emptying into the North Sea near Rotterdam.
Companies including chemicals giant BASF SE and steelmaker Thyssenkrupp AG rely on the river to supply major industrial plants with fuels and raw materials.
A mix of glacial run-off and rain feeds the river, but contributions from glaciers have dwindled in recent years as summer melting outpaces winter ice formation due to climate change.
Below-average snowfall last winter and continued glacial attrition mean the waterway is particularly likely to fall to crisis levels, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology said.
When the marker at Kaub hits 40cm or less, it becomes uneconomical for most barges to sail any further, a representative of Germany’s Federal Institute of Hydrology has said.
That effectively cuts off the flow of goods beyond the waypoint.
Shipments have already been hampered for weeks, with low water limiting how much barges can carry. Some vessels are specifically designed for shallow water, so traffic would not completely halt. The measured water level is not the actual depth of the river, but rather a marker for navigability.
Still, dwindling water levels at Kaub could cause planning headaches for BASF and utilities EnBW AG and Uniper SE — the latter of which recently received a US$17 billion bailout from the German government to prevent a collapse of its energy network.
While the companies would still be able to supply factories and power plants by road or rail, those modes of transport are significantly more expensive, leading to a squeeze on margins.
Further downriver, Thyssenkrupp is closely monitoring water levels at Duisburg, near Cologne. The river depth there currently stands at 171cm, with 150cm seen as the level that makes it uneconomical to transport materials such as coking coal and iron ore by barge.
LOST AT SEA: Survivors of a sunken Cambodian ship said they floated for two days in open waters, while a UN official said that traffickers might continue undeterred Chinese survivors from a boat that sank near a Cambodian island, killing three people and leaving eight missing, said they embarked on what they believed would be a short-term fishing job and ended up without food and water aboard the vessel, and their belongings were taken away. Cambodian authorities said on Friday they rescued 21 people one day after the boat small wooden fishing vessel sank near Koh Tang, a Cambodian island close to the maritime border with Vietnam. Nine more people were rescued by the Vietnamese and three bodies were recovered by Cambodia, leaving eight people still missing, Preah Sihanouk provincial
SOUTH CHINA SEA: Despite differences on some matters, Marcos has pledged to foster closer ties with China, calling the relationship ‘advantageous’ to both nations The Philippines is interested in renewing talks with China on joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea to expand and diversify its sources of energy, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in an interview. The Southeast Asian country seeks a compromise with China, which is claiming parts of the South China Sea that are within Philippine territory, Marcos said, stressing that any agreement must not contravene his nation’s laws. While the Philippines and China could not agree on which nation’s law would apply, “we continue to explore, perhaps there can be other ways that we can do it,” Marcos
Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin (胡錫進) on Sunday said that as China ponders its COVID-19 policies, epidemic experts need to speak out and China ought to conduct comprehensive research and make any studies transparent to the public. Hu’s unusual call on Chinese social media for candor and transparency earned him 34,000 likes on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging platform, as well as frank responses from commentators in a normally tightly policed Internet quick to censor voices deemed a risk to social stability. China’s top leaders warned in May amid the COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai and widespread restrictions in the Chinese capital, Beijing,
Standing in line to try to buy food, Rekha Begum is distraught. Like many others in Bangladesh, she is struggling to find affordable daily essentials such as rice, lentils and onions. “I went to two other places, but they told me they don’t have supplies. Then I came here and stood at the end of the queue,” said Begum, 60, as she waited for nearly two hours to buy what she needed from a truck selling food at subsidized prices in the capital, Dhaka. Bangladesh’s economic miracle is under severe strain, as fuel price hikes amplify public frustrations over rising costs for