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Rhine water depth up from crisis levels, could normalise this week

HAMBURG, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Water depths on the Rhine in Germany could rise to normal levels this week, with forecasts of heavy rain in river catchment areas, vessel brokers and commodity traders said on Monday.

“If forecast rain actually arrives in the coming days it is possible that the Rhine could return to normal water levels later this week, allowing vessels to sail fully loaded,” one broker said.

Weeks of high temperatures and little rainfall in August had reduced water depths on what is a major artery for commodities including grains, minerals, coal and oil products. The low water levels caused delays to shipping and pushed freight costs higher, raising fears that the disruption could even hit overall German economic growth.

The reference water level at the chokepoint of Kaub <WL-KAUB> near Koblenz was at 1.02 metres on Monday, up 0.5 centimetres from Sunday, having fallen to only 32 centimetres in August. Vessels need about 1.5 metres of Kaub reference waterline to sail fully loaded.

Shallow water after this summer’s heatwave and drought compelled some freight vessels to sail only about 25% full in August, increasing costs for cargo owners who needed more vessels to deliver supplies.

Vessels are now able to sail with larger loads and prices for river transport have fallen back from their peaks, brokers said. (Reporting by Michael Hogan Editing by David Goodman)

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