Shipping prices rise as Rhine water in Germany falls again, vessels part loaded

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A container vessel passes the Loreley Rock at low water levels as recent dry weather continues, that prevented cargo vessels from sailing fully loaded on the river Rhine, in Sankt Goar, Germany, July 19, 2022. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

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HAMBURG, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Water levels on the river Rhine in Germany fell again in hot, dry weather this week and cargo vessels are sailing with reduced loads with transport prices rising, vessel brokers and commodity traders said on Wednesday.

Shallow water is hampering shipping on the entire river in Germany. Water at the chokepoint of Kaub near Koblenz is especially low and some vessels are only sailing about 25% full, commodity traders said.

“Vessels are continuing to sail, it is up to the vessel owners to decide whether there is deep enough water to navigate and whether it is commercially viable for them,” said a spokesman for German inland navigation authority WSA. “The authorities do not order navigation to stop during low water.”

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The reference waterline level at Kaub fell to only 61 centimetres on Wednesday, vessels need about 1.5 metres of waterline to sail fully loaded.

“The reference waterline measurement is not always the water depth and there is still a navigation channel about 1.7 metres deep available at Kaub on Wednesday,” the authority spokesman added.

But fewer vessel owners are able or willing to pass through Kaub and spot prices are rising to compensate for sailings with much reduced loads, one cargo broker said.

Spot prices for a liquid tanker barge from Rotterdam to Karlsruhe south of Kaub rose to about 87 euros ($88.61) a tonne on Wednesday, up 7 euros on the day and up from only around 20 euros a tonne in June before water levels fell.

The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, chemicals coal and oil products including heating oil.

German companies faced supply bottlenecks and production problems in 2018 after a drought and heatwave led to unusually low water levels on the Rhine.

($1 = 0.9818 euros)

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Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Louise Heavens

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