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Germany's Rhine River at record low levels, freight shipping threatened

Germany's Rhine River is at record low levels due to hot temperatures and lack of rainfall, as seen in this satellite image. The low levels are threatening German freight shipping on Europe's second-largest river. Photo courtesy of <a href="https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2022/08/Rhine_river_runs_dry#.YvzDaccbdPA.link">European Space Agency</a>
Germany's Rhine River is at record low levels due to hot temperatures and lack of rainfall, as seen in this satellite image. The low levels are threatening German freight shipping on Europe's second-largest river. Photo courtesy of European Space Agency

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Germany's Rhine River is at a record low level, and the shallow river is impacting shipping. Germany depends on the river for 80% of its water freight.

Ship captain Stefan Merkelbach says at several moorings along the river, the water is too shallow to allow ships to stop.

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"It's less of a problem for us pleasure cruises, but freight ships and tankers are having problems," Merkelbach told NPR. "Ships that usually take 2,400 metric tons of freight are now taking only 500 tons so they don't run aground -- that's a massive reduction in load."

According to the European Space Agency, water levels on Europe's second-largest river have continued to drop due to soaring temperatures and lack of rainfall.

Freight ships, the agency said, are still sailing but with just 25-35% of the ship's capacity due to the low water levels.

The Federation of German Industries warned earlier this week the low water levels mean that it was only a matter of time before plants in the chemical or steel industry have to shut down and large-volume and heavy transports can no longer be done due to the low water levels.

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According to Adrian Schmid-Breton of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine, the last time the Rhine was this low was in 2018 and it cost German industry nearly $3 billion in goods that were not able to be shipped.

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