FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany on Wednesday prioritized the transportation of materials and equipment essential for energy production on part of the country’s rail networks in case water levels on the Rhine fall further and hamper shipping by river, according to a decree approved by the cabinet.
The aim of the decree is to ensure the operation of power stations, refineries and power transport networks, which need more coal and mineral oil as Russian pipeline gas exports have fallen amid an East-West standoff over the war in Ukraine.[nL8N2ZQ0B9]
Shortages of gas have also resulted in industry temporarily switching to more coal and oil usage to fuel manufacturing processes.
“In order to ensure security of supply, we also have to change the delivery routes,” said economy minister Robert Habeck in a statement.
“This requires very demanding logistics, which makes it necessary to prioritize energy transport by rail,” he added.
The law will apply for six months mostly to help Germany’s economy avoid disruption in the coming winter season when households heat with gas and energy demand will surge.
DB Netz, the network arm of railway operator Deutsche Bahn, is making rearrangements to ensure a preference for trains carrying mineral oil products and hard coal for power generators on designated corridors, said transport minister Volker Wissing.
Apart from the Rhine region, they also include some in eastern Germany, where refineries will abandon Russian oil feedstock via pipelines from year-end. The region therefore needs to receive some mineral oil products via other routes.
The law also covers gas and transformer equipment for power production and transmission to be given priority over passenger services and other industrial requirements.
Water levels on the Rhine river have risen after recent rains but are expected to fall again with mostly dry weather forecast in coming days, ship operators said on Wednesday.
An important reference waterline level at the measuring point of Kaub near Koblenz has risen in recent days and is now at 120 centimetres (cm) (47.24 inches), up from 32 cm last Friday.
When it falls below 30 cm, it becomes uneconomical for many vessels to continue their journeys.
Kaub hit 25 cm at one point in 2018.
(Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Bernadette Baum)