Diesel and gasoil barge logistics from the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp trading hub to the river Rhine are currently hampered by a combination of low water levels, a lock worker strike and loading delays, said traders Tuesday.
Water levels at eight locations along the Rhine were 3.10 meters Tuesday, near their lowest in four months, data from German Federal Waterways showed.
They rose to as high as 7.49 meters during the height of Central European floods in early June, but consistently high temperatures in Europe this summer have thinned water levels, said traders.
The key points surveyed are: Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Coblenz, Kaub, Mainz, Mannheim, Karlsruhe and Basel.
Traders said this prevents barge operators from loading their vessels to full capacity because the river is too shallow in some locations. This, in turn, limits the amount of product that can move up the Rhine.
“People are under-lifting because of water levels. Something like 300-400 mt on each barge and I’ve seen 1,300 mt on one of them,” said a trader.
Complicating the issue for barge operators has been a strike by lock workers in Germany, which has been on and off over the past few weeks.
The strikes resumed in the regions of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Bremen Monday and will likely expand to other parts of Germany this week, which could increase the sailing time from ARA to Switzerland by a few days, said traders.
Finally, there are still loading problems at Rotterdam’s ETT terminal with a large queue of vessels currently waiting to load.
There was a bunker fuel spill there over the weekend, which forced the terminal to stop operations for a few hours, but otherwise traders said the delays were related to the sheer amount of barges awaiting.
The terminal is used by trading house Vitol, among other companies, and is 50% owned by Vitol. Vitol sources confirmed the delays, adding it was working hard to alleviate them.
“We loaded one barge today [Tuesday] which had been there for three days,” one trader told Platts.
Rotterdam barges were assessed by Platts Monday at $940/mt FOB, a $10.25/mt discount to CIF ARA cargoes, which represent the cost of bigger 20,000 mt vessels and includes insurance and freight.
This was the largest discount assessed since late May, suggesting that traders would rather buy cargoes than barges, they said.