HAMBURG, July 20 (Reuters) – Water levels on the river Rhine in Germany have fallen again after this week’s heatwave and cargo vessels are sailing with significantly reduced loads, navigation authorities said on Wednesday.
Shallow water is hampering shipping on the entire river in Germany south of Duisburg and Cologne.
“Shipping is continuing but with sometimes strongly reduced loads,” said Florian Krekel, spokesman for German inland waterways navigation agency WSA, stressing this is especially true for the chokepoint of Kaub near Koblenz where water levels are extremely low.
“Shipping during low water is not officially stopped, the sector regulates itself,” he said. “Currently vessels can still sail but with a significant reduction in loads. It depends on the vessel type if they can load 50% or only 30% of their cargo.”
Commodity traders said that water levels at Kaub are so low that vessel owners have freedom under their contracts to cancel shipments if they believe their vessels cannot operate safely.
River ships continue to sail but at Kaub are often 70% empty, a trader said.
Shallow water means vessel operators impose surcharges on freight rates, increasing costs for cargo owners.
The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, 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. But rain is forecast in south German river catchment areas later this week which could help raise water levels.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan, Editing by Louise Heavens)