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I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city which started and which continues to thrive thanks to the Ohio River. In fact, the last time that I visited my family there, I drove up Columbia Parkway and observed several barges moving up and down the river. While it may seem quaint to still utilize river transportation, there is no denying that it is an effective and cost-efficient method of moving goods from point A to point B.
River transportation remains a key component of supply chains across the globe. For example, Germany has the Rhine which moves northwest to southeast across the western part of the country:
Notice how the Rhine connects major German cities (in fact, these cities came into existence as trading posts along the Rhine, and then grew into their modern incarnation as major cities of as commerce). A story in today’s New York Times explains that the Rhine is experiencing a very serious drought which is negatively impacting supply chains in Western Germany:
“It’s simply the most important river in Germany,” said Martin Mauermann, head of the hydrology and water management section of the federal body responsible for waterways. “It’s like the thick branch in the middle of the tree.”
Roughly 80 percent of the 223 million tons of cargo transported by ship in Germany each year travels the Rhine, which links the country’s industrial heartland to Belgium, the Netherlands and the North Sea. An exact tally of how much is being diverted to rail and road is not yet available, but “it is a significant number,” said Martyn Douglas of the German Federal Environment Agency.
Supply chain disruption obviously affects manufacturers who not only rely on supply chains to deliver raw materials but also to send finished products to customers. But other businesses also rely on supply chains such as retail outlets, auto dealerships, and farmers. In fact, one could argue that this drought is hurting the entire western region of Germany in one form or another.