Rhine water levels rise in Germany; shipping returning to normal

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 03, 2017 4:44 AM

HAMBURG (Reuters) - Rising water levels on the Rhine and Danube in Germany are allowing shipping to return to normal on much of the rivers after two months of disruption caused by shallow water, traders said on Friday.

The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, coal and oil products such as heating oil. The Danube is a major route for east European grain exports, especially maize, to western Europe.

The north Rhine around Cologne and Duisburg is still too shallow for vessels to sail with full loads, but shipping on the central and south Rhine and on the Danube is back to normal, the traders said.

The Rhine and Danube have been too shallow for normal sailings since late November, with some barges in Germany only able to sail at 20 to 30 percent capacity, but rain and warmer temperatures melting snow caused river levels to rise this week.

All of the Rhine is expected to return to normal levels over the weekend, allowing full vessel loads.

Traders emphasized that cargo had still been delivered despite shallow water. However, low water levels meant that loads were divided among several vessels instead of being carried by a single craft, increasing transport costs for cargo owners. Freight was also transferred to more expensive road transport.

(Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by David Goodman)