High Rhine water levels a headache for European crushers

21 Nov 2023 | Eoin Hughes

Unusually high water levels on the River Rhine have been causing transport problems in Europe, impacting some European crushers.

At the bottleneck of Kaub, water levels were recorded at 521 cm, unusually high, and creating some headaches for transport.

“Barges have difficulties in berthing since the berths are covered with water,” a source told Agricensus, adding that some vessels were having difficulties getting under the bridges as a result.

Shipping was also blocked from passing Maxau on the Upper Rhine, where water levels were measured at 760 cm on Tuesday.  

Industry sources had mixed opinions on the impact this could have on the crushing industry, which like many German industries uses the Rhine to move goods to and from plants.

“We see problems – but not yet severe problems, more like delays,” one source said.

“For our line of trade a lot is lifted by truck and rail as well, so it is not entirely depending on barges, but it is, of course, a worry.”

Other sources were less concerned, with one telling Agricensus they “don't see any main issues for German crush, as most of the German crush industry is along the Rhine River but further up north.”

Local forecaster Wetterdienst has predicted the weather will turn drier from Wednesday under a different pressure system after a very wet November saw twice as much rain as average in some regions.

In tandem, the German Waterways Electronic Service (ELWIS) has predicted lower water levels in the coming days, with levels at Kaub forecast to be between 472 cm and 508 cm by Thursday afternoon.

In recent years, transport has been more commonly hit by low water levels, with a dry summer in 2022 causing disruption as heavily laden ships risked scraping the bottom of the river or being stranded.