Parts of the river Rhine in south Germany are closed to shipping on Wednesday and are expected to remain shut in the coming days after heavy rain and melting snow increased water levels, navigation authorities said.

Rhine shipping remains halted around Maxau in south Germany, the German inland waterways navigation agency WSA said.

The southern sector of the Rhine around the chokepoint of Maxau was closed on Tuesday after rain and a sudden rise in temperatures melted snow in south Germany and raised water levels.

The river is expected to remain closed to shipping at Maxau until at least Friday although levels are expected to start falling again from Thursday, said the water level forecasting service of the Rheinland-Pfalz state government in south Germany.

High water means vessels do not have enough space to sail under bridges and the blockage at Maxau prevents vessels sailing to Switzerland. Shipping on northern sections of the river is operating normally, despite a rise in water levels, including the important points of Duisburg, Cologne and Mannheim.

The Rhine is a major shipping route for commodities including minerals, coal and oil products such as heating oil, grains and animal feed.

The Rhine has repeatedly suffered from low water levels because of unusually dry summers in recent years. (Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Lincoln Feast)