German water levels low, transport prices rising

Transportation capacities on Germany’s rivers are seriously reduced, as water levels keep dropping after weeks of little rainfall, with prices for available capacities surging massively.

On the Rhine and Danube, especially, levels have fallen to a degree that has most vessels reduce their load to 40-50% of normal capacity, to prevent hitting the riverbed bottom. However, “customers may still have to pay the full price per ship, no matter if the load is 100% or less,” a manager at a steel distribution company explains to Kallanish.

Meanwhile, ship operators can negotiate prices freely, “which means prices could be exploding,” the manager says.

With his own company, the normal contracted rates apply to a minimum water level of 2.80 metres. From that mark downward, the company has to pay a low-water supplement of 10% extra every 10cm the level drops. But even for that, the limit has been reached. “We are now more than100cm lower, at below 1.80m, which means outside of the definitions of our contract, so the skipper can dictate a totally new and different price,” the manager explains. “The coming weeks will be hairy,” he warns.

He adds that those extra positions were not considered in his company’s sales contracts, and therefore cannot, and will not, be handed down to customers.

On Thursday, German national TV reported that prices for bulk goods from Rotterdam have now gone up by 100-150%.

Christian Koehl Germany