Rhine water levels on the rise in boost for German economy

Cologne: Gateway to the North Rhine-Westphalia region
Cologne: Gateway to the North Rhine-Westphalia region

It hurt oil refiners, steel-makers and petrochemical companies, bashed industrial production and almost helped to tip the country into a recession, but the dried-up Rhine river is finally flowing freely again – offering a fillip to the German economy.

Barges that handle hundreds of fuel shipments up and down the river each year are now able to reach all destinations fully loaded – something they’ve not been able to do for months, according to a note yesterday from Rotterdam-based broker Riverlake Barging.

Water levels at many locations are now back to normal for the time of year. The slump in the river’s water levels dented Germany’s growth by 0.4pc in the final quarter of 2018, and by 0.3pc in the preceding three months, according to estimates from JPMorgan economist Greg Fuzesi in January.

Mr Fuzesi said at the time he anticipated a 0.55pc contribution to GDP in the first quarter of 2019 as the river’s water levels normalise. German GDP was unchanged in the last quarter of 2018 after shrinking in the prior quarter, leaving the economy teetering on the edge of a technical recession.


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