European supply chains face yet another challenge. The low water levels of Europe’s major rivers are making inland waterway transport an increasingly expensive service. As logistics managers point out, this can make transport costs up to ten times more expensive.
The biggest problem is for those economies where river transport is an important part of transport in general (with road transport, of course, being involved at the beginning and end of the whole logistics chain). The issue is serious because, for example, the Rhine river flowing through Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands connects the port of Rotterdam with the largest industrial centres in western Europe.
Meanwhile, in many places, the level of the river has dropped below one metre, making it impossible to transport heavy cargo. How are shipping companies managing? Either they are forced to give up transport, or they have to carry the same cargo on several barges so that the ship’s displacement is lower. As announced by German Transport Minister Volker Wissing, the government is considering deepening Germany’s major waterways by 2030.
According to Eurostat, the European Union average use of inland waterway transport in total freight volume is 7%, but Germany or France, for example, carry an average of 10-15% of all freight in this way.