London — Rhine water levels continue to drop amid dry, hot weather in Europe, restricting barge traffic and pushing rates along the river higher to new 18-month highs, with further declines in water levels forecast.
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Water levels at Kaub, a key chokepoint on the Rhine in western Germany, have dropped to 82 cm, after falling below 100 cm on July 22, and are forecast to drop another 12 cm in the coming five days, according to Germany's Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV). Last summer, the lowest level at Kaub was 119 cm.
The Rotterdam-Karlsruhe route for 1,000-5,000 mt barges was assessed at $41/mt Monday, the highest since January 31, 2017, after having risen sharply over the past month. The rate is three times where it stood on June 15.
"There has been no rain predicted and levels are likely to fall further, and at Kaub you can now not even load 900 mt on a barge," one broker said.
"So really charterers have to take two-and-a-half barges to transport the same as they normally would take on one, and the barge owners need to be compensated for that," the broker said, adding that that 57 cm at Kaub is the critical level where barges cannot pass safely.
"The rates are rising but it's only really because of the water levels -- there isn't much demand, there is only really contract volumes that are moving on the Rhine now," the broker said.
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