Months of low rainfall and an unusually warm November has left Germany’s Rhine river short of water, causing problems for river-based transport.
Ships are being forced to reduce their cargo by as much as half to avoid running aground, according to Roberto Pranzi, member of the board of the Federal Association of German Inland Navigation.
He told the DPA news agency this leads to considerable additional costs due to the reduced transport capacity.
As an example, he said due to the low water levels, a convoy with a carrying capacity of 5,200 tonnes could currently only take 2,200 to 2,400 tonnes if it wanted to pass Kaub on the Rhine.
AP reports that on Friday, the gauge in Emmerich on the border with the Netherlands measured 76 centimetres when the median low-water mark there is 94 centimetres.
The European Commission said on Monday the average autumn temperatures in Europe this year were the highest since records began.
Data released by the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service found that the period from September to November was 1.9 degrees Celsius hotter than the standard 30-year reference period from 1981 to 2010, and 0.4 C higher than the previous warmest autumn in 2006.
This, coupled with unusually low rainfall in November, has left the river with low levels of water.
Hydrologist Jörg Uwe Belz from the Federal Institute of Hydrology explained: "On the Federal Rhine waterway, navigation is hampered over long distances and many ships have to reduce their draught. According to the Waterways and Shipping Administration, it is the responsibility of the freight skippers to adjust their cargo to the depth of the fairway.
For economic reasons, increasingly larger inland waterway vessels with more transport capacity have been operating on the Rhine.