The Rhine River is forecast to open fully to barge traffic overnight after floods and high waters disrupted shipments for at least five days.
The waterway will probably be navigable along its entire length from 2 a.m. Berlin time tomorrow, Michael Putzschke, a spokesman from the German federal water and shipping office in Mainz, said today in an e-mail.
Shipping was halted on sections of the Rhine upstream from Koblenz in Germany to Basel in Switzerland this week amid floods, which were the worst on record in some areas. The waterway links industrial sites including the Gelsenkirchen oil refinery operated by BP Plc and BASF SE’s Ludwigshafen chemicals site to Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port. The river is also connected to other countries via canals.
“Rhine water levels are decreasing,” Joachim Hessler, operations manager at barge-owner Maintank Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH, based in Woerth near Frankfurt, said today in an e-mail. “Barges are still occupied with current trips and are already planned for next trips. We have received a number of enquiries for barge capacity and this is an indication that availability is tight.”
The water level at Kaub, Germany, which is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Dusseldorf, fell to 6.59 meters (22 feet) today, according to data from the German Federal Institute of Hydrology. That’s down from 7.16 meters on June 4, which was the highest since at least 2006.
Oil product barge shipments were halted during the floods this week, causing suppliers to use inventories from storage, according to Pieter Kulsen, founder of PJK International BV, a researcher based in Breda, Netherlands. Barge freight rates weren’t affected during the closing and may surge when Rhine traffic resumes, he said today by phone.
Front-month gasoil futures moved into backwardation, where prompt contracts cost more than later deliveries, on June 4 amid speculation that the floods would cause temporary fuel shortages, according to Abhishek Deshpande, an oil markets analyst at Natixis in London.
June gasoil traded at $875.75 a metric ton, or a premium of $2.25 to the July contract, as of 3:58 p.m. on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.
The rate to transport gasoil in barges from Rotterdam to Duisburg, Germany was 5.75 euros ($7.62) a ton today, unchanged since May 30, PJK data show.
The lower Rhine approaching the Netherlands was navigable throughout the week, Kulsen said.