‘extreme’ conditions on the river Rhine delays the flow of cargo between a number of European countries
Inland transport by barge to and from key European container ports Rotterdam and Antwerp is being severely delayed as a result of “extreme” low water levels on the river Rhine, adding to pressures on European intermodal capacity.
Container line Hapag-Lloyd and European intermodal operator Contargo this week reported that he water level of the Upper Rhine area was getting close to a critical point at which barge operators were either forced to suspend their operations or were working at much-reduced capacity, with some barge operators applying surcharges in order to keep containers moving.
Hapag-Lloyd said: “Up until now, Hapag-Lloyd has been able to manage most of the transport requests. However, in the following days, we predict delays, especially in south Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria. These extreme conditions on the Upper Rhine will in the immediate future also affect Mid and Lower Rhine, where similar measures are to be expected.
“Cargo flows from barge will be moved to other modes of transportation, such as rail and truck, resulting in scarce capacities there. Therefore, we might not always be able to accommodate your transport requests within the required time frame. For some lanes, we are not able to accept any new transportation orders.”
The low water levels on the Rhine are exacerbating already challenging conditions for European barge transport companies and their customers. For more than a year, Contargo has applied surcharges for boxes transported by barge to and from Rotterdam and Antwerp due to congestion issues at the two ports.
Contargo said that current waiting times for its barges in Antwerp are between 24 and 48 hours, while in Rotterdam it said delays were between 12 and 72 hours.
Contargo said the forecasts for the water gauge level in the Rhine at the German town of Kaub were expected to fall below 0.80 metres over the next few days. It said if the gauge level does fall below 0.81 metres it would have to extend its low-water surcharge rates for Kaub to €175.00 per 20-foot container and €225.00 per 40-foot container.
Contargo said the above rates apply for full containers transported by inland waterway between the seaports of Rotterdam or Antwerp and locations on the Rhine-Main above Koblenz.
It pointed out that, “as stated in our General Terms and Conditions, our obligation to transport ends when the level of the Kaub gauge goes down to 0.80 metres or below. Irrespective of this, we will do everything possible to continue to handle your containers. Due to the difficult situation we must regretfully point out that adhesion to delivery dates can no longer be guaranteed.”
But the company reported that according to the predictions of Germany’s ‘Electronic Waterway Information System’ (Elwis), the level at the Kaub gauge will fall below the 0.71 metre mark in the coming days.
Contargo added: “This will further reduce the loading capacity of inland vessels. Unfortunately, the available ship capacities are already scarce and the weather forecast does not foresee any significant precipitation, so that an improvement in the situation is not to be expected in the short term.”
It said it was therefore expanding its low-water surcharge table, with low-water surcharge rates for Kaub rising to €240.00 per 20-foot container and €300.00 per 40-foot container for water levels between 0.70 metres and 0.61 metres at Kaub.
Contargo told customers: “The small water surcharge will only be charged for loaded containers. We continue to do our utmost to be able to transport your containers on time and punctually.”
04 August 2018