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Rhine Water Holds Above Crisis Levels In Germany, But Could Drop Again

Water depths on the river Rhine in Germany remained stable this week, holding above recent crisis low levels after rain, but dry weather could mean falls again in coming days, vessel brokers and commodity traders said on Friday.

Weeks of high temperatures and scant rainfall drained water levels in the river, Germany’s commercial artery, causing delays to shipping and pushing transport costs up. The disruption could hit economic growth in Germany this year.

The reference water level at the chokepoint of Kaub near Koblenz was unchanged on the day at 0.82 metres on Friday against only 32 centimetres earlier in August which threatened to disrupt shipping.

Vessels need about 1.5 metres of Kaub reference waterline to sail fully loaded. The river is about 1 metre deeper than the reference waterline.

Shallow water after this summer’s heatwave and drought compelled some freight vessels to sail only about 25% full in August, increasing costs for cargo owners who needed to hire more vessels to get supplies delivered.

“The river was stable this week and well above the worst period in August but most vessels and barges can only sail less than half full,” one broker said. “However, prices have fallen from their peaks.”

Spot prices for a liquid tanker barge from Rotterdam to Karlsruhe south of Kaub fell to about 88 euros a tonne on Friday, down from about 100 euros a tonne last week. Prices hit around 118 a tonne earlier in August, up from around 20 euros a tonne in June before water levels fell.

A commodity trader added: “Weather forecasts are still looking pretty dry and we could see another fall in Rhine water in coming days. But there is some rain forecasted later next week which could bring some relief.”

The Rhine is a shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, coal and oil products including heating oil.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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