Market Insight

Annual report
Year 2017

Market Insight
FALL 2017

Market Insight
WINTER 2017-2018

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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 Q2 2016 and Q2 2017 (Transport performance in Million TKM)



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

Source : Destatis, National Statistical Offices


  • On the traditional Rhine, transport performance increased by 11 % from Q1 2017 to Q2 2017. This is mainly due to a recovery from the difficult conditions in the 1st quarter 2017 (low water levels on the Rhine). Compared to 2016, transport performance in Q2 2017 increased by 2%. But because of Q1 2017 transport performance decrease, the total result in the 1st half year 2017 was nevertheless 5 % lower than in the 1st half year 2016.
  • The tributaries of the traditional Rhine (Main, Mosel, Saar, Neckar) account for 12 % of the transport performance in the Rhine basin in Germany (Main: 5 %, Mosel: 5 %, Saar: 1 %, Neckar: 1 %). In Q2 2017, traffic on the Mosel was 7 % higher than the previous year. On the Saar, the increase was even 37 %, highly supported by steel industry activity and iron ore traffic increase. The Main registered an increase of 45 %, while navigation on the Neckar stagnated.
  • The sum of transport performance on the traditional Rhine, the Rhine tributaries and the North-South axis again reached the level of Q2 2016. Growth was somewhat dampened by a weakening of transport evolution in the Netherlands (see below transport performance evolution by country).
  • Danube navigation showed a remarkable recovery in Q2 2017, having suffered heavily from low water levels and ice in winter 2017.




Transport performance in main IWT European countries


Inland shipping transport performance in main European IWT countries (quaterly data-million TKM)

Source : Eurostat and National Statistical Offices


  • In Germany, the rising water levels on the Rhine as well as an economic upswing (see chapter 1) enabled a recovery of dry mass cargo transports. The level in Q2 2017 was 15.6 % higher than in Q1 2017 and 5 % higher than in Q2 2016. A segment with a particular increase was iron ores.
  • In the Netherlands, transport performance increased against Q1 2017, but not against Q2 2016. According to CBS, the reason was a long interruption of traffic due to an accident on the river Maas.
  • In Romania, transport performance increased by 53 % from Q1 2017 to Q2 2017. Bulgaria showed growth rates that were a little lower than in Austria and Hungary. This is explained by the fact that ice and low water periods had not been as harsh in the southern Danube region, and so the rebound effect was not as strong.
  • In Austria, transport performance in Q2 2017 increased by 73 % compared to Q1 2017, and by 33 % compared to Q2 2016. The increase of 73 % is due to better waterway conditions, while the increase of 33 % results from better economic conditions in 2017 compared to 2016 (in particular an increase in steel production in the Danube area).
  • In Hungary, the evolution and growth rates are very similar to Austria, and transport evolution seems well synchronized between these two neighbouring countries.


Dry bulk, liquid bulk and container transport


Rate of change in inland shipping transport performance in four major IWT countries (Q2 2017 vs Q2 2016 - %)

Source : National Statistical Offices


  • In Germany, certain mass cargo segments showed an enormous growth rate. Iron ores had an increase of 30 % compared to Q2 2016 and an increase of 25 % compared to Q1 2017. Within the liquid cargo segment, mineral oil products grew by 12 %, while chemicals stagnated. Container transport performance (in TKM) was 2 % lower than in Q2 2016, while the TEU volumes were 2 % higher. This difference could be explained by the low water period at the beginning of the year, which had a more negative (and ongoing) impact on the transport of loaded containers than on the transport of empty containers.
  • In the Netherlands, according to information from the National Statistical Office CBS, transport evolution was dampened by an accident on the river Maas. The accident caused the damage of a barrier and an interruption in navigation for a long time.
  • In Belgium, container transport continued its upward trend with +6 %. Inland navigation in Belgium is promoted by a strong network of important seaports and inland ports (especially Antwerp, Gent, Liège, Brussels, Namur), and the creation of new regular container lines between them. Traffic growth during the second quarter is also partly explained by the accident that occurred in the Netherlands.
  • In Romania, dry cargo segments related to agriculture and the steel industry account for 81 % of total transport performance – iron ores (36 %), agricultural products (33 %), coal (7 %), metals (4 %). Liquid goods traffic has a very small share of only 4 %, and container transport only 0.02 %.
  • Iron ore transport in Romania increased by 17 % compared to Q2 2016 and by 80 % compared to Q1 2017. Agricultural products showed an increase of 14 % compared to Q2 2016 and an increase of 45 % compared to Q1 2017. The reason for an overall growth rate of only 6 % is due to the fact that there was a negative evolution for both coal and metals.




Waterside transport in European ports


Transshipment volume in (Q1+Q2) 2017, transshipment volume in (Q1+Q2) 2016 and rate of change between both


  • In Rotterdam, dry bulk traffic increased by 5 %, which is about the same rate as that observed for dry bulk in Germany. The port is an essential provider of commodities for the German steel industry.
  • In Antwerp, dry bulk traffic increased by 1 %, but the growth was especially strong for iron ores (+27 %). A parallel with the evolution in the German hinterland in Q2 2017 is obvious.
  • In Hamburg, overall maritime traffic remained constant. Dry bulk traffic was 1 % higher than the previous year, and a special driver here was also iron ore (+4 %).
  • The 10 largest Rhine ports registered a waterside traffic of 57 million tonnes in the 1st half-year 2017, compared to 60 million tonnes in the same period of 2016. This meant a decrease of 5 %, which is the same rate of change as observed for the transport performance on the whole traditional Rhine.
  • In the Port of Paris, sands, stones and building materials (which represent 3/4 of waterside traffic) had an increase of 8 %. The overall result was nevertheless stagnation, as the traffic of agricultural products and foodstuffs was still very negatively affected by the bad harvest results in 2016. It is expected that this negative effect will run out in the 2nd half of 2017.
  • In the port of Constanza, 60 % of maritime traffic concern dry bulk, which had an increase of 3.4 % in Q2 2017. Another 15 % of the maritime traffic is liquid bulk, 16 % are containers and the rest are other cargo types. Within dry bulk, agricultural products have the highest share.
  • Almost all of the upper and middle Danube ports (Regensburg, Linz, Vienna, Budapest, Baja) presented here showed a strong increase in their half-year traffic compared to the previous year. The only exception is Linz, an important centre of the steel industry.
  • In Q2 2017, traffic in Linz (which contains above all iron ore, metals and coal) increased by 18 % compared to Q2 2016. The reason why the rate of change for (Q1+Q2) 2017 is nevertheless negative can be seen in the enormous reduction in Q1 2017 (-38 %), which could not be fully compensated in Q2 2017.




Container transport in European ports


IWT Container traffic in European inland ports in (Q1+Q2) 2016 and (Q1+Q2) 2017 (1000 TEU)

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


Maritime container traffic in European seaports in (Q1+Q2) 2016 and (Q1+Q2) 2017 (in Mio TEU)

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


  • The port of Rotterdam registered a 9 % increase in total maritime container traffic in the first half-year 2017, thereby increasing its market share for container traffic within the Hamburg-Le Havre range from 29 % to 31 %.
  • The reasons for this strong growth are related to the high productivity of the new infrastructure (Maasvlakte 2 terminals), which attracts more maritime containers. Within total maritime container traffic, 1/3 is feeder traffic (intra-European maritime container traffic between Rotterdam and smaller European seaports). This type of transport even reached a growth rate of 22.6 %, boosted by a strong business cycle in Europe.
  • Container handling of inland vessels suffers since quite a long time under congestion problems in seaports, and this was especially the case in the 1st half of the year. The reasons were changes in the schedules of maritime shipping companies, leading to a high concentration of maritime transshipment activities and therefore an insufficient capacity for handling inland container barges. (Source: Information based on the press note of the European Barge Union (EBU) from July, 10th 2017 [Aahoudende Congestie bij Containerterminals en daeerme samenhangende Kosten voor de Binnenvaart]) Possible solutions for these congestion problems are subject of investigation.
  • The waterside container traffic in the largest European inland port, Duisburg, continued its upward trend in the 1st half-year 2017, despite somewhat difficult conditions (see efficiency issues in seaports mentioned above). Waterside traffic grew by 6.5 %.
  • For the 10 largest Rhine ports in container traffic, the sum of waterside container traffic amounted to 796 thousand TEU, which was 13 % below the 1st half-year 2016 result. The main reason being the cargo loss of Q1 2017 due to low water levels.
  • In the ports of Paris, container traffic by IWT reached 77 446  TEU, a plus of 6.3 %. Container traffic by rail lost 0.6 % while container traffic by road increased by 4.6 %. Overall, the fastest growing segment in Paris was again the urban logistics segment.

Market Insight
WINTER 2017-2018

A project co-financed byEuropean Commission

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