Rhine River Barge Traffic May Resume This Week on Dry Weather

Oil product barge traffic on the Rhine River may resume this week amid forecasts for drier weather after rains caused flooding in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.

“The industry is hopeful that the water levels will decrease again and that things will come back to normal in the next few days,” Joachim Hessler, operations manager at Maintank Schiffahrtsgesellschaft mbH, a barge-owner based in Woerth near Frankfurt, said today.

German cities including Frankfurt, Cologne and Mannheim are forecast to have sunny skies in the next two days, according to data from CustomWeather Inc.

Chancellor Angela Merkel began a tour of affected areas in Germany as authorities battled to limit the damage from flooding that is the worst on record in some parts of the country and recalls the devastation in 2002, which submerged whole regions in Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. The Rhine links industrial sites including BP Plc’s Gelsenkirchen oil refinery and BASF SE’s Ludwigshafen chemicals site to Rotterdam, Europe’s busiest port. The waterway is also connected to Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria via canals.

The Rhine isn’t navigable upstream from Koblenz in Germany because of high water levels, which means Frankfurt, Mannheim, Strasbourg in France and Basel in Switzerland can’t receive oil product shipments, Hessler said.

Barges Occupied

“Barges are occupied with their current trips and planned consecutive trips have to be rescheduled,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The water-level at Kaub, Germany, which is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Dusseldorf, rose to 7.14 meters (23 feet) as of 10:30 a.m. Berlin time, the highest since at least 2006, according to data from the German Federal Institute of Hydrology.

“It makes no sense discussing new business because a lot of capacity is being shut down as a result of this high water level situation,” Pieter Kulsen, founder of Netherlands-based researcher PJK International BV, said by phone from Breda. “Basically, everything is on hold.”

Abundant oil product inventories in Germany will probably cover any shipments that have been delayed during the river closing, Kulsen said.

Barge freight rates haven’t been affected by the halt, and may rise when traffic resumes and buyers replenish their stockpiles, he said.

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