Market Insight

Annual report
Year 2017

Market Insight
FALL 2017

Market Insight
WINTER 2017-2018

4 Available chapters - Download the PDF

2. Freight traffic on inland waterways and in ports

Transport performance in Europe


Transport performance in IWT on the national territory of each country in Europe – Comparison between Q1 2016 and Q1 2017 (Transport performance in Million TKM)

Source: National Statistics Offices, Eurostat, CCNR





Inland waterway transport performance evolution on Rhine and Danube (transport performance in Million TKM)

Source : Destatis, National Statistical Offices



  • During Q1 2017, goods transport in Rhine countries accounted for 87 % of the goods transported through inland waterways in Europe, whereas goods transport in Danube countries represented 13 %.
  • The Rhine was also affected by low flow periods, but to a lesser extent than the Danube. In Q1 2017, 45.5 million tonnes of goods were transported on the traditional Rhine, representing a decrease of 6.2 % compared to Q1 2016, but an increase of 7.4 % versus Q4 2016. Transport performance fell by 11.7 % compared to Q1 2016, but was 9.4 % higher than in Q4 2016.
  • Danube navigation suffered heavily from low water levels and ice in winter 2017. This effect was especially strong at the middle and upper Danube (See: Reuters (10.1.2017), Hungary, Bulgaria ban shipping on Danube as river freezes over).



Transport performance in main IWT European countries



Inland shipping transport performance in main European IWT countries (quarterly data – Million TKM)

Source : Eurostat, National Statistical Offices

Inland shipping transport performance in main European IWT countries (quarterly data – Million TKM)

Source : Eurostat, National Statistical Offices



  • Traffic in the Rhine countries Germany and Netherlands was marked by the low water period on the Rhine, starting in September 2016 and lasting until February 2017; a very high level of transport in March 2017 helped to lift the total traffic in Q1 2017 above the level of Q4 2016; but it was not sufficient to reach the goods transport performance of Q1 2016.
  • Belgium was the only European country where transport performance in Q1 2017 was higher than one year before. Several positive trends in Belgium explain this, especially the booming container traffic, and the upward trend for inland shipping in important river ports and seaports (according to information from the Port of Brussels, inland shipping traffic increased by almost 10 % in the first half year 2017 compared to one year earlier).
  • In the middle Danube countries, river transport in Q1 2017 was strongly reduced due to both low water levels and ice periods. For most of the middle Danube countries, transport performance was around 1/3 lower compared to Q1 2016 (Hungary: -35 %, Slovakia: -36 %, Croatia: -33 %).
  • At the upper Danube (Austria), river transport was affected even more, with a loss of 44 % compared to Q1 2016. Danube shipping in Austria was cut off from its westward trading direction: Shipping on the Main-Danube Canal, as the westward link between Austria and the Rhine, was suspended for more than three weeks due to ice (see the information about the suspension of shipping from the German Inland Waterway Administration/Office Nürnberg: press releases from January 23rd, 2017 and from February 14th, 2017).
  • The lower Danube countries Romania and Bulgaria suffered relatively less from ice and low water conditions in Q1 2017, which is also confirmed by the results of the Romanian ports traffic in Galati and Constanza.



Dry bulk, liquid bulk and container transport



Rate of change in inland shipping transport performance in selected countries (Q1 2017 vs Q1 2016 - %)

Source : Eurostat, National Statistical Offices


  • Looking at the transport performance evolution per type of cargo, it can be seen that container transport in the Netherlands and Belgium increased, reflecting the robust upward trend of container traffic in these two countries.
  • The goods transport volume decrease in Germany is greater than in the Netherlands because the German part of the Rhine was more impacted by low water conditions than the lower Rhine region in the Netherlands.
  • New container connections are being established. The port of Ghent, for example, reported a 20 % increase in inland shipping container traffic in Q1 2017. New container lines are being put in place between Ghent and Lille, Rotterdam, Zeeland Seaports and Antwerp. Also in the port of Brussels, new connections between Brussels and Antwerp, for example for refrigerated containers carrying fruits, are increasing container traffic (see: Port of Ghent (2017), Best quarter ever for port of Ghent (Press note, 5 April 2017), and: Port of Brussels (2017), 1er semestre 2017 – importante progression du transport de marchandises par la voie d’eau au port de Bruxelles (25 August 2017).
  • For Romania, the decrease is explained by harsh winter conditions, in the months of January and February, which led to an interruption in inland shipping over a certain period of time.



Total transport in European ports


Total transshipment volume in Q1 2017, Total Transshipment volume in Q1 2016 and rate of change between both

Source: National Statistics Offices, Eurostat, CCNR






  • Total inland shipping traffic in the biggest Rhine ports fell by 6 % in Q1 2017 – the same rate of change which is observed for the transport volumes on the traditional Rhine.
  • Most of the Rhine ports registered losses in Q1 2017, with the exception of Mannheim. The strong growth in Manheim and the sharp decrease in Ludwigshafen are in fact related: an accident in the port of Ludwigshafen in autumn 2016 resulted in traffic being shifted between the two neighbouring ports.
  • In the Port of Paris, the result was still heavily influenced by the consequences of the bad harvest 2016 in France. Without this effect, the quarterly year-on-year rate would have been positive. Positive signal: building materials, the most important product segment, continued their positive trend with an increase of 2 %.
  • Danube ports traffic was heavily impacted by an ice period in January and February 2017. The strong decrease is explained by the fact that some Danube ports were frozen and closed, so that cargo could not be loaded or unloaded anymore, even if vessels were freed from ice (see : Total Croatia News (23.1.2017), Ice causes major losses for Croatia’s River Shipping Company).



Container transport in European ports


IWT Container traffic in European inland ports in Q1 2016 and Q1 2017 (1000 TEU)

Source : Destatis, Port autonome de Strasbourg, Swiss Rhine ports


Maritime container traffic in European seaports in Q1 2016 and Q1 2017 (in Million TEU)

Source : Port of Rotterdam, Port of Antwerp, Port of Hamburg


  • The biggest European seaport, the port of Rotterdam, had a 9 % increase in TEU volumes; one main reason being growth enhancing effects from the new Maasvlakte 2 terminal.
  • But a large part of this growth comes from feeder traffic, and has therefore no impact on the hinterland traffic by rail, IWT or road. Feeder traffic concerns the intra-continental maritime trade between main seaports and smaller seaports in Europe.
  • The container traffic results in major Rhine ports showed strong variations. For the ports of Duisburg and Mannheim, growth was present, while Basel, Germersheim, Strasbourg, Neuss and Cologne saw a decrease.
  • In the port of Paris, container traffic by IWT increased by 6.2 % in Q1 2017, and continues its upward trend. Container traffic by rail traffic grew weaker (+0.8 %), and container traffic by road stronger (+ 8.8 %).

Market Insight
FALL 2017

A project co-financed byEuropean Commission

Top of the page