Shipping prices drop as parts of Rhine return to normal depths

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HAMBURG, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Water levels on the Rhine in Germany have risen sharply after rain this week, returning to normal levels of parts of the river and pushing down cargo shipping prices, vessel brokers and commodity traders said on Friday.

Weeks of high temperatures and little rainfall in August had drained water levels on Germany’s commercial artery, causing delays to shipping and pushing up freight costs. There were fears the disruption could hit overall German economic growth.

The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including grains, mineral ores, coal and oil products. However, low water depths meant some freight vessels sailed about 25% full in August, increasing costs for cargo owners who needed more ships to make their deliveries.

“With rain continuing I expect all of the river in Germany to return to normal levels, allowing vessels to sail fully loaded over the weekend,” one vessel broker said on Friday.

The reference water level at the major chokepoint of Kaub WL-KAUB near Koblenz was at 1.53 metres on Friday, above the 1.5 metres vessels need to sail fully loaded. It fell to only 32 centimetres in August, disrupting shipping.

The Rhine south of Kaub to Switzerland has returned to levels allowing full vessel loading, brokers said.

Parts of the river in north Germany, including around Cologne and Duisburg, are still too shallow for full vessel loads but are expected to reach normal levels over the weekend.

Spot prices for a liquid tanker barge from Rotterdam to Karlsruhe south of Kaub were about 51 euros a tonne on Friday, down from about 68 euros last week and peaks of about 118 euros in August, brokers said.

(Reporting by Michael HoganEditing by David Goodman)

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