Market Insight

Annual report
Year 2017

Market Insight
FALL 2017

Market Insight
WINTER 2017-2018

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IWT companies


  • In Europe, there were about 10 000 inland waterway companies operating in the market in 2014 and 70% of them were located in Western Europe.
  • More than 22,000 people were employed in the IWT sector in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France in 2014.



Rhine countries



  • Western Europe inland shipping is characterized by a fragmented market with several small family businesses owning or operating one or two vessels.



Dry cargo sector



  • For the dry cargo sector, results show that the spot market is dominant (55-65 %) for the negotiation of prices. This concerns transports of cereals and foodstuff, sand/gravel, ores and coal. Time or voyage charter contracts are also signed by 20% of companies. In this sector, about 70% of the shipping companies contact shippers via one or more intermediaries. In addition, online platforms are used in 15% of cases.
  • In the steel market (iron ore transport), dedicated units also exist, in the form of push convoys travelling regularly from the ARA ports to the steel plants in the hinterland.
  • In the foodstuff transport, customers are often large agribusiness companies or co-operations of farmers.
  • Regarding the transport of sand & gravel: gravel transport, between mining locations and the building industry, is mostly done over the spot market. For sand, dedicated vessels operate on a project basis. Conditions and pricing are based on project-based contracts.



Liquid cargo and container sector



  • In liquid cargo, as well as in container transport, time charter contracts are more often to be found. In the container sector, the share of time charter is around 45 %, and around 40 % in the liquid cargo sector. About 50 % of all contracts in these segments are long-term contracts, with a duration of 2-3 years on average. But a great number of agreements are still made via the spot market. In the case of LNG vessels, longer agreements are possible due to the high investment needed for operating in the market. For instance, the 15 new LNG vessels entering the market by the end of 2018 have a 7-year contract with Shell.
  • Suppliers of IWT services have solid and long relationships with one dedicated broker in 70% and 50% of cases respectively. In both sectors, an additional 15% contact more than one intermediary. Own marketing and own contacts account for 10%. Online platforms are not significant for liquid cargo, and only slightly so for container shipping.
  • For container shipping, large shipping lines have a stronger influence in the seaport hinterland than individual small companies. Large shipping lines usually sign long-term agreements and decide on what containers are shipped under carrier’s haulage. This last concept means that the maritime shipping company organises also the transport in the hinterland of the seaport, and decides on the transport modes.
  • In the IWT sector, the presence of cooperatives is not widely spread yet. through this type of cooperation is only done in 5%-10% of the cases, although some cooperatives are currently growing steadily.
  • In 2014, 63% of the existing IWT companies were registered in the Netherlands which employed about 45% of the total labour force in the sector. French and German enterprises represented 17% and 14% respectively.
  • The majority of enterprises operate in the freight transport sector (76%). In the case of Switzerland, 53% of the companies operate in passenger transport.



Evolution in the number of companies and people employed in IWT Western Europe (units)

Source : National Statistical Offices, Eurostat, CCNR calculation. *People employed in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium.



  • After the crisis in 2008, the total number of companies in Western Europe decreased slightly (-1.2%). This was mainly influenced by the decrease in the number of German companies (-13%), particularly relevant in freight transport enterprises. In the Netherlands, there was also a reduction of enterprises (-1.6%) over the period.
  • The evolution in the number of companies was different in other Rhine countries:
  • In France, the number of passenger transport companies almost doubled. However, the evolution in the total number of IWT entities remained stable due to the decline in freight transport enterprises (-18%).
  • In Switzerland, twelve new companies entered the market (21% growth) but only three of them operated in passenger transport.
  • The sector is very dense in the Netherlands where there were 65 entities per 100km navigable inland waterway in 2014.
  • The number of employees in the sector increased over the period (3%). This was influenced by new people hired in the Netherlands (+12%) and France (+20%), since German and Belgium companies reduced their labour force.



Companies by number of employees in 2014 (% over the total) - THE NETHERLANDS

Source : CBS, Destatis, INSEE

Companies by number of employees in 2014 (% over the total) - GERMANY

Source : CBS, Destatis, INSEE

Companies by number of employees in 2014 (% over the total) - FRANCE

Source : CBS, Destatis, INSEE



  • In the Rhine countries, the structure of the market is determined by a large number of small family businesses, which mainly operate in the dry cargo sector, except in Switzerland where larger companies operate in river cruises or tanker shipping.
  • In the Netherlands, Germany and France, the number of companies that have up to nine employees is significantly high. In Switzerland, these enterprises represent about 66% of the total number of IWT entities.
  • Regarding the sector of activity, freight transport companies had between two and six employees on average. In Switzerland, more people were hired between 2009 and 2014 since companies had about 12 employees in 2009 and five years later, 20 people were working in each entity.
  • In passenger transport companies, there were more employees per enterprise (between four and 12 people) on average. In Switzerland, there was a 56% increase, from 35 to 55 employees per company, in the period 2009-2014.



Danube countries



  • The structure of the IWT market in Danube countries is influenced by the communist past. The previous state owned enterprises became privately owned but the big size of the companies remained. About 14 large companies, with more than 20 vessels, dominate the market.
  • On the Upper Danube, smaller shipping companies from the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium are very active but their market share is about 15% of the total cargo transported in this area.
  • The largest enterprises operate in the freight transport sector with a fleet mainly formed by barges for the transport of bulk goods. In passenger shipping, there are smaller enterprises that offer day trip or river cruise transport services. 70% of these services are performed by vessels with the flag of the Netherlands, France, Switzerland or Malta.
  • The sector is dense in Austria where there were about 30 entities per 100km navigable inland waterway in 2014.
  • On a regular basis, about 20-25 fleet operators work in the freight transport market in the Danube region.



Evolution in the number of IWT companies in the Danube region

Source : Danube Commission



  • The number of IWT entities operating in the Danube area increased (+37%) over the period. Particularly after 2008, the trend was influenced by new passenger transport entities entering the market. The drop in 2011 was due to a decrease (-55%) in the number of Romanian passenger shipping companies as compared to 2010.
  • The evolution in the number of companies was different in each Danube country.
  • In Romania, there was an upward trend (+80%) until 2009 when the number of both freight and passenger companies started to decrease. In 2014, 126 IWT enterprises were Romanian which was the largest number among Danube countries. 71% of them operated in the freight market.
  • In Hungary, the number of IWT companies increased (+9%) over the period, especially in passenger transport (32%) from 2008 onwards. In 2014, there were 78 passenger and 27 freight transport companies; however, the total annual turnover was €17.8Mio and €58.1Mio, respectively. This means that most passenger transport companies are small and offer day trip or commuting services along the Danube in Budapest.
  • Austria registered a gradual increase in the total number of IWT entities (+83%) mainly due to the passenger transport growth.
  • Passenger transport in the Danube countries includes day trip shipping, river cruises and also commuter traffic.
  • In most countries, the majority of enterprises operate in the transport of dry bulk, except in Hungary and Austria where passenger transport companies represented about 74% and 86%, respectively, in 2014.



Number of employees per company in freight transport

Source : Eurostat, CCNR calculation



  • In freight IWT, there was a decrease in the number of employees per company in all Danube countries, except in Romania where there was a 3% increase. The economic crisis and the restructuration of companies might have led to this situation.
  • Bulgarian and Hungarian freight entities reduced the number of employees by half during the period. This reduction was even stronger in Austria and Slovakia where companies’ labour force was diminished by about 74%.



Number of employees per company in passenger transport

Source : Eurostat, CCNR calculation



  • In passenger transport, most of the companies have less than 10 employees on average which is the same structure as in most Rhine countries.
  • Bulgaria is an exception. Five new large companies entered the market in 2014, hiring more than 60 employees per entity on average.


Annual report
Year 2017

A project co-financed byEuropean Commission

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