Dramatically low water levels are disrupting freight and passenger transport on the Danube, Europe’s second longest river, resulting in severe losses for shipping companies, according to Magyar Hírlap.
Since the completion of the German Rhine–Main–Danube Canal in 1992, the river has been part of a trans-European waterway from Rotterdam on the North Sea to Sulina on the Black Sea, a distance of 3,500 km. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for 2,860 km, passing through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea.
“These water levels are catastrophic for all companies involved in river shipping,” said Attila Bencsik, president of the Hungarian Water Freighters’ Association.
Bencsik said in Germany that water levels are so low that even empty ships are unable to pass, on the Hungarian stretch several fords are no longer navigable forcing freighters to reduce their payload to one-third of capacity, thus denying any profits. Some companies are either forced to reload their cargo onto lorries or wait for water levels to rise, in both cases incurring extra costs or running into losses.
Gábor Spányik, CEO of Hungarian passenger shipping company Mahart Passnave told Magyar Hírlap that the Little Danube – a 128km branch of the river in Slovakia – is practically closed to shipping while cruise ships with a draft exceeding 1.6 meters have to stop in Esztergom, northern Hungary.
Cruise ship Viking Atla in Budapest
Spányik said that only the smallest, Bíbic class hydrofoils can safely navigate the Danube. Altogether his company is facing a revenue losses in the magnitude of HUF 100 million (US$354,000).