surcharges on barge users

Government imposes surcharges on barge users amid water level drop

The Rhine’s low water level has dealt a massive blow to barge users across Northern Europe, resulting in reduced loads and consequent cut-price charter costs across the market.

Barge users in Northern Europe are experiencing additional charges as water levels continue to drop. This has caused major delays in transit in the thick of increasing temperatures in the region. 

Contargo, the logistics service provider performing trimodal transport between the seaports and the European hinterland imposed charges of between €201 to €589 per 20ft box and €259 to €775 per 40ft on the Kaub Gauge in relation to the water levels. 

“Due to the reduced loads barges can carry, additional tonnage has to be chartered on the market. We have had to adjust the low water surcharge because of the massive present increases in charter costs. If the situation should become more acute, we reserve the right to make further adjustments to the surcharge. We ask for your understanding,” said the barge operator.

The barge operator had earlier blamed their activities on the rising cost of gasoline connected to the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“The enormous rises in the price of gasoline, diesel, and electricity bring great financial hurdles to our hinterland network and service providers,” Contargo stated.

A forecast report indicates that water levels could fall further below the 80cm mark for the Kaub Gauge, the most important waterway for navigation on the Middle Rhine.

The plight of barge users remains in limbo as delays of 42 hours have been reported in Antwerp, the largest city in Belgium. Consequently, Rotterdam reported delays of approximately 57 hours. The surcharges could only come at a worse time for some barge users who have experienced congestion when transiting over the past 1 year.

“Terminals in Antwerp and Rotterdam maintain their policy of only accepting containers if an equivalent [number] can be delivered to the same transport unit. For trucks, it is one-to-one; for barges, the barge is obliged to accept the same quantity of containers as they bring in; but also, only containers earmarked for a connecting ocean vessel will be accepted. This, along with the war in Ukraine, is the main reason why overall daily charter rates for barges are rising,” reported The Loadstar.

In a differing statement, the chief of public affairs and public relations at Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam, Rob Bagchus, challenged claims that northern Europe’s inland waterways are experiencing delays.

Contargo pointed out that it will have no obligation to transport gauge levels of 80 cm or below in Kaub. However, on a more positive note, they reported that they will do everything within reach to ensure containers reach their destinations on time.

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