KAUB, GERMANY — Water levels on the Rhine have reached a critical low as historic drought conditions continue to affect much of western Europe.
Near the town of Kaub on the Middle Rhine, an official gauge measured the water level at 37 centimetres (14.6 inches) on Saturday afternoon. Big, heavy ships can’t pass if the level falls below 40 centimetres (15.7 inches).
While the depth of the shipping lane in Kaub was still about 150 centimetres (59 inches), experts say passage becomes tricky even for light or specially adapted cargo ships if water levels fall below 35 centimetres (14 inches) at the gauge mark. A reading below 30 centimetres (11.8 inches) is considered unpassable.
Shipping authorities predict that point could be reached early next week, though it is unclear whether water levels will reach the record low of 25 centimetres measured at the Kaub gauge in October 2018.
Meteorologists forecast rain in the coming days, though it was unclear whether it would be enough to keep water levels on the Rhine from dropping to a point that affects shipping.
As shipping companies prepared to potentially halt the transport of goods on the Rhine, river cruise companies were updating travellers and the trade.
Here’s what AmaWaterways posted on its site last week under ‘Sailings Impacted by Water Levels’ in its Travel Advisory section:
“Our experienced teams are monitoring the situation in Europe very closely and no sailings have been suspended.
“Safety remains our top priority and we have alternative plans in place should the local authorities temporarily curtail river traffic on any portions of the Rhine or Danube rivers. These plans may include alternative docking locations, modified shore excursions as well as ship swaps, if necessary.
“As the water levels on the rivers can change quickly, we have a dedicated communications team in place to alert our guests and valued travel advisors of any modifications affecting their upcoming river cruise vacations and assist with any changes that may be required. Whatever itinerary our ships sail, our staff and crew around the globe remain dedicated to ensuring that our guests have the most enjoyable vacation possible.”
With file from The Associated Press