Germany’s river Rhine has been reopened to shipping vessels after closing due to fears around the possible impact of high water levels following a period of heavy rain and melting snow. 

German inland waterways navigation authority WSV had closed the southern section of the river on 12 December after a quick rise in temperature saw water levels rise due to the effects of melting snow and ice. 

The authority only opened the passage again this week when water levels fell enough to allow ships to fit under the bridges along the route through the Maxau chokepoint on their way to Switzerland. 

Though the river is an important route for European shipping operations, it has faced a number of difficulties in recent years due to the effects of climate change, falling to seasonal low water levels during the summer during particularly dry weather. 

Issues with the water levels in the river are also only expected to get worse with the International Commission for the Hydrology of the Rhine Basin predicting that low flows will only become more extreme. 

A report on the impact of changes to the rain, snow and glacier melts on the flow of the river said: “Periods with impaired navigation in relevant sections of the middle Rhine would get much longer and drought warning levels in the Netherlands would be reached more often. 

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“Plans of the various water use sectors need to take such changes into account in the future. The effects of climate change on the streamflow of the river Rhine and its tributaries are already being felt today and the project results suggest that they will continue to intensify in the future.” 

The issue of climate change’s impact on the maritime industry has become of growing importance to shipping companies leading many to take action such as looking into alternative, more sustainable fuel sources. 

However, consulting corporation KPMG recently published a report warning that the shipping industry may not reach its net zero targets and would need to do more to find and quickly utilise solutions to emissions problem.