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Rhine freight rates rise as barge demand increases

Freight rates in Germany are rising as demand for barges increases amid transport restrictions.

Rates for gasoil barges from the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) hub to Rhine storage depots have risen by around 15-20pc since mid-February, according to PJK International.

Rhine water levels at critical measuring point Kaub dropped below the 200cm required for full-barge loading at the start of the month. Ice on some canals in northern Germany is creating delays and leaving some barges stranded, reducing prompt availability.

Low temperatures meant some locks on Rhine tributaries and canals were closed over the weekend. Some restrictions remained in place this week, especially around Hamburg and Magdeburg in the northeast, and near BP’s 82,000 b/d Lingen refinery in the northwest.

Heating oil volumes on the spot market have been heavily reduced since late February at Lingen and at a nearby storage facility in Osnabrueck, which is partly supplied by barge and which ran dry last week.

A cold spell created strong heating oil demand and increased the need for imports during the past few weeks. This contributed to shortfalls at some Rhine storage facilities. A shutdown at the 301,000 b/d Miro refinery in Karlsruhe, scheduled to run until early April, is also increasing demand for imports.

Low Rhine levels mean barges travelling to locations south of Frankfurt have to limit their intakes slightly in order to pass Kaub. The level there is forecast to keep falling to around 180cm by 8 March before recovering slightly, according to measuring service Elwis.

Restrictions on transport could help build up stocks at the ARA hub. Barge outflows of gasoil from ARA up the Rhine rose to 170,000t last week, the highest weekly tally since the beginning of 2018, according to PJK’s Rhine Flow Service (RFS) estimates.
Source: Argus

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