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Rain lifts Rhine water levels in Germany, helps cool off cargo rates

HAMBURG, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Water levels on the river Rhine in Germany have risen sharply after rain this week, approaching normal levels and helping cool off cargo shipping rates, vessel brokers and commodity traders said on Thursday.

Prices for cargo shipping are falling as vessels are able to load more freight, they said.

Spot prices for a liquid tanker barge from Rotterdam to Karlsruhe south of Kaub were at about 55 euros a tonne on Thursday, down from about 68 euros last week and peaks of about 118 in August, brokers said.

Weeks of high temperatures and little rainfall in August had drained water levels on Germany's commercial artery, causing delays to shipping and pushing up freight costs.

There were fears the disruption could hit overall German economic growth.

Low waters meant some freight vessels sailed only about 25% full in August, increasing costs for cargo owners who needed more ships to make their deliveries.

The reference water level at the major chokepoint of Kaub <WL-KAUB> near Koblenz was at 1.24 metres on Thursday, close to the 1.5 metres vessels need to sail fully loaded.

It fell to just 32 centimetres in August, disrupting shipping.

“With more rain forecast, Kaub water could rise to normal levels on Thursday night,” a broker said.

“Northern levels around Cologne and Duisburg are still shallow and could take a couple more days before these areas return to normal depth. But I think a return to normality is likely in coming days.”

The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities including grains, minerals, coal and oil products including heating oil. (Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Jason Neely)

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