Rhine waterways closed to shipping as water levels surge

Source: ICIS News


LONDON (ICIS)--Sections of the River Rhine are currently closed to shipping transportation as a result of surging water levels in Germany over the weekend, a representative of the country’s waterway and shipping administration said on Monday.

Chemicals producers in the region received warning late last week that high water levels may impede shipping, and the situation intensified over the weekend, reaching nearly 700cm in places.

Levels are currently high enough that the route between Dormagen and Gernsheim on the lower stretch of the Rhine and between Mannheim-Rheinau and Iffezheim on the lower stretch are currently closed.

The upper stretch is expected to reopen later on Monday, while the lower stretch is likely to be closed until Tuersday afternoon local time, according to a representative for Germany’s Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV).

Rhine water levels from December 2017 to early January 2018. Source: Federal Office of Hydrology (BfG)

The situation was already noticeable for European chemicals players last week, with halts on navigation reported on the Kaub and Maxau stretches of the river ahead of the weekend.

A methanol market source noted on Friday that it was already disrupting supply, but that the impact would likely be manageable if conditions return to normal levels by Wednesday as expected.

“Everybody tries to get some other modes of transport in place in order to supply [but] I think this can only be done to a certain extent,” it said.

A mono propylene glycol (MPG) reseller also said on Friday that the high river levels had placed additional strain on truck and driver availability and led to higher costs, adding that loading slots for prompt were scarce. However, one MPG producer said it had not experienced any logistical problems late last week.

“We have a pre-warning of high Rhine water levels, which could mean barges cannot pass under bridges,” said an olefins source late last week.

Many markets are still in the process of resuming normal operations after the Christmas break, with some players only returning to their desks this week, meaning that it is difficult to determine the extent of the operational impact.

Pictured above: high water levels on the Rhine, 8 January 2018 (source: BfG)

Additional reporting by Heidi Finch, Vicky Ellis and Nel Weddle