* Shallow water still hampers Rhine, Danube sailings
* Some vessels sailing under half full
* Length restrictions in southern sections of river
HAMBURG, Nov 16 A further fall in water
levels this week is hindering freight shipping on the Rhine and
Danube rivers in Germany and many vessels are sailing only 50 to
20 percent full, traders said on Wednesday.
Rhine water levels have fallen because of dry weather in
Germany and Switzerland, continuing a period of shallowness
which started in late October.
Water levels are so low that the maximum length of vessel
permitted to sail in some southern sections of the river has
been reduced to 116.50 metres from 135 metres normally, a
spokeswoman for the German inland navigation agency said.
"Vessels over this length have to apply for a permit and
undertake a test sailing," she said.
The river is too shallow to allow vessels to sail with full
loads on the river from Duisburg in the north to Switzerland,
Water is so low on the Rhine from Cologne to southern
regions around Koblenz that vessel owners have a contractual
right to refuse to sail if they think their vessels will be
Low water means vessels are unable to load to full capacity
and surcharges are added to freight rates, increasing costs for
More vessels are also required to ship the same freight
volume. Some cargo owners have to pay for the full vessel even
if it sails half full.
Low water is hindering shipping on the entire German section
of the Danube river, traders said. The Danube has also fallen to
the level at which vessel operators can decline to sail for
safety reasons although their had been a slight increase in
water levels in the past two days, traders said.
River catchment areas in Germany and Switzerland are
forecast to be mostly dry up to Sunday, so no immediate
improvement is in sight, traders said.
The Rhine is an important shipping route for commodities
including grains, minerals, coal and oil products such as
heating oil. It is a major route for Switzerland's commodity
The Danube is a major route for east European grain exports
to west Europe.
(Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Keiron Henderson)