Inland shipping response to discharge extremes: A 10 years case study of the Rhine

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Inland shipping is a key modality for freight transport between the seaport of Rotterdam and the industrial areas in Germany and Switzerland. The recent droughts of 2018, 2019 and 2022 have clearly demonstrated how discharge related supply chain disruptions cause substantial economic damages in the hinterland. The IPCC predicts that climate change will increase the variability in water cycles globally, making future extremes more frequent and more severe. In-depth insight into the response of inland shipping to discharge extremes is crucial to better anticipate and potentially mitigate this climate risk. Existing literature takes (a small number of) representative vessels and estimates corridor scale climate risks through extrapolation. Recent droughts have shown that this approach may give unrealistic results. Newspaper articles and reports from the sector suggest that the fleet composition and vessel deployment change during high and low discharge extremes, and cascading effects are likely to occur. So far, however, no objective data on this phenomenon has been reported in literature. This paper analyses ten years of IVS and discharge data, for the period between 2010 and 2020, revealing in detail for the first time how discharge levels and vessel deployment are related. This improved insight into shipping response is crucial for any corridor to accurately estimate the climate risk of discharge extremes. While this paper focuses on the Rhine corridor, the proposed method is applicable to other corridors as well.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100578
Number of pages15
JournalClimate Risk Management
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Fleet composition
  • Vessel deployment
  • Discharge events
  • Vulnerability
  • Supply chains


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