05 Jul 2019, 14:05
Sven Egenter

Germany wants to get shipping on Rhine River ready for climate change

Clean Energy Wire

The companies that depend on the Rhine River – Germany’s most important shipping artery for heavy goods and raw materials – have developed an action plan with the transport ministry, following last year’s drought that made the river unpassable for weeks. “The extremely dry periods of past years have shown: If ships cannot pass on the Rhine, fuel stations remain empty and companies have to cut back production,” transport minister Andreas Scheuer said in a statement. “We have to act now, to keep the transport conditions up also in light of changes to the climate.” The plan includes better provision of information on weather and water levels. More storage capacity along the river, lighter ships able to navigate low water levels and optimisation of discharge options at the lower and middle Rhine are also considered. In the long run, the ministry also wants to analyse possible ways to store and hold back water for times of low water levels.

After a prolonged drought in 2018, low water levels in the Rhine – at some points the lowest ever recorded - disrupted fuel and chemical supplies on the vital European trade route, hitting Germany’s economic output. In early July 2019, the river’s levels were well above last year’s lows. However, researchers have warned that low water levels could occur more frequently as a result of climate change.

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