Water levels in Danube at record lows

Water levels in three sections of the River Danube in Hungary fell to record lows on Wednesday August 22nd as a result of the recent drought. Passenger cruise ships have been restricted in where they can travel, while freight shipping companies have had to lighten the loads on individual vessels to cope with the reduced draught.

In Budapest the Danube receded to 0.61 metres, compared with a record low of 0.51 metres recorded in 2003. Rainfall was forecast for the weekend in Austria and Germany, which the Hungarian National Water Authority said could help raise water levels in Hungary.

Ferenc Kruppa, operations director of freight shipping company Fluvius, said told Reuters that the company expected revenue to be between €1m and €1.5m lower for the first eight months of 2018 when compared with last year, and that this would largely be due to shipping difficulties. Fluvius operates seven barges, shipping mainly agricultural, produce, steel products, coal, and fertilizer on the Danube and the Rhine. Kruppa said that because of the low water levels freight vessels could only be loaded up to 25% of their capacity.

Gabor Spanyik, chief executive of Hungarian majority state-owned shipping company MAHART Passnave, said that vessels with sinkage of more than 1.6 metres had to stop at the city of Komarom in the northeast, as they could not sail to Budapest.

Authorities had banned shipping overnight between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. for large passenger ships and barges, in order to limit the risks of vessels running aground.

Spanyik estimated that MAHART Passnave had lost close to HUF100m ($355,000) in profits due to the shipping difficulties, with sailing limitations affecting 50 to 60 of its vessels.