German transport minister presents contingency plan for droughts on Rhine

Ship transport on the River Rhine during periods of drought required more accurate water level forecasts and a faster expansion of shipping lanes, according to an action plan presented by the German Minister for Transport Andreas Scheuer.

“The situation from 2018 must not be allowed to repeat itself,” said Scheuer during his presentation of the so-called “Low Rhine Water Level” action plan of measures aimed at creating reliably calculable transport conditions for Germany’s largest river.

Inland waterway transport accounted for the majority of freight transport along the Rhine, ahead of rail and road transport, according to the German transport ministry. This made the River Rhine Germany’s “most important and environmentally friendly transport route”.

In 2018, drought and low water levels had seriously affected inland shipping in Germany. Many petrol stations were empty as petrol or diesel shipments could not be delivered while large companies such as chemical giant BASF were unable to transport their raw materials.

“We must act now in order to maintain transport conditions at a consistently high level, also in view of climatic changes,” stressed German transport minister Scheuer on Thursday.

The German transport minister’s contingency plan envisaged that forecasts for water levels on the River Rhine should become more precise and be possible over longer periods.

In addition, information on current water depths on Germany’s largest river should be made more easily accessible, according to the German transport minster’s plan.

The summer of 2018 became known as a so-called “century summer” in Germany as only the summer of 2003 was warmer and the summer of 1911 drier, according to the German weather service (DWD).