As unseasonably warm and dry conditions persist, container ships are no longer able to move in and out of Switzerland’s key port on the Rhine, in Basel.
Since Friday, the port in northern Switzerland has been forced to suspend the movements of container ships due to persistent low water levels.
Heinz Amacker, head of the Danser Schweiz shipping company, told public broadcaster SRF that he had never seen such a situation before; all eight of his vessels remain docked and immobile.
According to SRF, which also reported on the growing problem some weeks ago, some 10% of all goods imported to Switzerland pass through the port of Basel. These goods will now have to be transported by rail or – more expensively – by road.
Low water levels are in evidence across the country as a historically hot and dry summer has mellowed just slightly into an Autumn of t-shirt weather and minimal precipitation.
Switzerland’s second-largest river, the Aare, is also showing signs of drying, with patches of stony riverbed to be seen in the capital, Bern. Measurements at the Murgenthal station showed that the current level of 398.37 metres above sea level is 22 centimetres lower than the usual mid-October average, reports the Solothurner Zeitung paper.
And though Swiss water supplies, buoyed by underground sources, are unlikely to come under pressure, fish and vegetation have been suffering from the lower levels and higher temperatures of the rivers.
Earlier, in August, when the heat wave pushed the water temperature in parts of the Rhine above 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit), thousands of fish were killed, while cold-water-loving trout and grayling were forced to move away from usual habitats to escape the heat.
Conditions in Switzerland are set to remain warm, sunny, and dry until early next week, according to MeteoSwiss.