University of Twente Student Theses


The impact of low water levels on inland waterway transport : An economic risk assessment of shipping on the Rhine

Timmer, A.J. (2023) The impact of low water levels on inland waterway transport : An economic risk assessment of shipping on the Rhine.

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Abstract:In 2018 a severe dry period occurred, only for it to happen again in the summer of 2022. The dry period of 2022 caused the lowest water level to date on the Rhine at Lobith [NOS, 2022]. Dry periods and the resulting low flows on the Rhine are a growing problem. While the main focus on the Rhine was often on flooding it is also important to realise that the low-flow periods have a large impact on the Netherlands [van Hussen et al., 2018]. This thesis has expanded on the consequences of low-flow periods on the inland shipping industry and the welfare loss that happens due to this. Lower water levels cause transportation prices to rise and this causes welfare loss for the Dutch and German economies. This thesis tries to find the risk of low-flow periods on the Rhine. This is done by combining low-flow statistics with an economic impact assessment. Additionally, climate change was assessed to see if climate change will have an influence on the low-flow statistics of the Rhine. The first step of the thesis, the low-flow statistics, was done by using 101 years of historical discharge data of the Rhine. By plotting the so-called ’Low Flow Frequency Curve’ of the Rhine at Lobith the current probabilities of low flows were determined. The influence of climate change was found using literature research. The effect of climate change depends on which climate change scenario is used. The most severe climate change scenario increased the chance of low flows by less than 1% and the most severe climate change scenario increased the chance by over 60% The second step, the economic impact assessment, was done using historical inland vessel data. Looking at the difference in water level and the draft of a ship, this thesis determined the transportation efficiency of different types of ships. If the efficiency dropped below a certain threshold, cargo loss occurred. This ’lost’ cargo is used as the output of the economic impact assessment, this shows how much cargo is lost due to the lower water levels on the Rhine. This lost cargo ranges from 0 tons, at the water level where every ship can sail with maximum capacity, to over 20 million tonnes, at the water level of 1.9m where only the smallest ship can sail with very limited capacity. At the end of this thesis, the probabilities found by the low-flow statistics are combined with the output of the economic impact assessment, to gain the risk of low-flow periods. Included are several climate change scenarios, since they have different low-flow statistics they also have different risks. The total risk of the current climate is equal to 9, 80 ∗ 106 tons of cargo and the risk of the worst climate change scenario is equal to 1, 58 ∗ 107 tons. Additionally, a less substantiated method was used to find a monetary value for the economic impact. This method used the ’Low water surcharge’ at Emmerich to see what the increased transportation price would be during low-flow periods. This only looked at the extra price of transported cargo, not lost cargo transportation due to transportation efficiency loss. Therefore the monetary damage is on the low side. The current yearly risk was found to be equal to €4.500.0000 and in case of the worst climate change scenario, this could increase up to 150% to €11.400.000 yearly.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Programme:Civil Engineering BSc (56952)
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