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Rhine River Water Level May Drop This Week, Hampering Shipments

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May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Water levels on the Rhine River, which have dropped to the lowest in 18 months, may fall further this week, potentially hampering shipments of products from gasoline to grain, according to a German government agency.

“There’s not a lot of water coming from upstream,” said Ulrich Nowotsch, an official from the Wasserschutzpolizei, which patrols German waterways. “Water levels are expected to drop in the next three or four days in Duisburg, Koblenz, Mainz,” he said from Duisburg, Germany.

Falling water levels have cut the amounts that can be carried on barges by as much as 70 percent, pushing freight rates to the highest level in 18 months. The cost of shipping gasoil to Duisburg in Germany from Rotterdam or Amsterdam rose to 8 euros ($11.50) a ton yesterday, the highest price since November 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

The Rhine links industrial sites including BP Plc’s Gelsenkirchen refinery and BASF SE’s Ludwigshafen chemicals site to Europe’s busiest port in Rotterdam. A canal system running into Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria joins the Rhine at Duisburg, west of the Gelsenkirchen plant.

“We’re down to about 25 or 30 percent of capacity,” said Joachim Hessler, operations manager at Maintank Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH, which handles diesel and jet fuel deliveries. “Barges can still travel.”

The barge clearance level at Mainz dropped to 175 centimeters this week, the lowest level since November 2009, according to German government data available on Bloomberg. The clearance level is the depth at which a barge can travel without the risk of running aground.

The cost of shipping gasoline to Karlsruhe in south Germany from Rotterdam advanced 9 percent to 30.75 euros, Bloomberg data show. The Miro refinery, part owned by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, is in Karlsruhe.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rachel Graham in London rgraham13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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