In 2018, the low water level on the Rhine led to massive problems for the economy. The price of freight transport quadrupled, as ships could only transport about one third of the usual volume. This severely restricted the logistics of many companies. The crisis worsened to such an extent that the Oil Stockholding Association released stocks to prevent bottlenecks.

Suppliers have learned lessons

Those responsible have prepared themselves for a low Rhine level in 2019. The Federal Ministry of Economics informed the Handelsblatt that all necessary precautions had been taken to ensure the availability of fuel in the western regions of Germany. The BP group also expressed confidence. Stocks had been increased and a mixture of different transport companies had been used to guarantee deliveries. The low Rhine level also affected Evonik in 2018. However, CFO Ute Wolf explained that the company was prepared for a corresponding scenario this year. Evonik had adapted its logistics processes and already booked ships with low draught.

Industry observes the situation

Many companies were surprised by the situation in 2018. One of the companies hardest hit was BASF. This company procures about 40 percent of all raw materials via waterways. At times, therefore, the supply of certain raw materials was completely interrupted. BASF ruled by shutting down plants and reducing production volumes.

To prevent such a scenario from occurring in 2019, BASF is cooperating with the Federal Institute of Hydrology. Together, a model was developed to predict the water levels of the Rhine. In this way, it is possible to predict low fairways and react accordingly at an early stage.

Further preparations were also made with the lease of ships. “All the transport capacity there is has been booked by BASF. This means that we can hold out even longer if the level in Kaub falls to critical lows. In this respect, we are much better prepared than last year,” said company boss Martin Brudermüller with regard to the precautions.