Boat Blocks the Rhine Just as Water Level Starts Creeping Higher

Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Source: Bloomberg

A vessel is blocking the Rhine River after suffering a technical fault, yet another glitch for the key waterway that has become difficult to navigate because of drought.

A section of the river between St. Goar and Oberwesel is closed, a spokesman for the WSA water authority said. That’s on a narrow part of the river near the closely watched Kaub chokepoint.

The blockage comes just as the water level at Kaub is starting to edge higher. After falling as low as 30 centimeters (11.8 inches) earlier this week, it’s now forecast to reach 49 centimeters (19.3 inches) on Aug. 21. The measured water level isn’t the actual depth of the river, but rather a marker used for navigability.

The affected vessel is made up of four parts, which will have to be separated from one another before they can be towed away. That’s being worked on and it’s possible that the river will reopen as early as Wednesday, the spokesman said.

Low water levels are restricting the shipment of commodities along the Rhine River, which snakes for about 800 miles from the Swiss Alps down to the North Sea. This latest setback only adds to the logistical difficulties already facing shippers.

The water measure at Kaub is currently 34 centimeters, meaning the water is so shallow that it’s uneconomical for many commodity-hauling barges to sail through the chokepoint. That’s curbing the shipment of vital goods to locations further upriver, including parts of southern Germany and Switzerland.

While the river between St. Goar and Overwesel may be reopened relatively quickly, low water levels are set to continue limiting shipments for some time yet. Even if the marker at Kaub rises to 49 centimeters as forecast, many barges will still be severely restricted in how much cargo they can carry at that level.


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