Inland waterways - statistics on container transport

Data extracted in December 2018.

Planned article update: September 2020.

Highlights
Container transport represented 11.3 % of total inland waterways transport in the EU in 2017.
40-feet freight units accounted for 71 % of inland waterways containers transport in the EU in 2017.

Containers transport performance, EU-28, 2009-2017

This article presents the latest statistical data on inland waterways transport of containers in the European Union (EU) and other countries connected to the EU inland waterways network. Fourteen Member States have the legal obligation to provide data for inland waterways transport, where transport of goods by containers is one category of cargo classification. Eurostat disseminates data on container transport by type of goods (annual data) and on container transport by nationality of vessels (quarterly data). This article is based on annual data.

Full article

Transport of containers by inland waterways increased in 2017

In the EU, the share of containers transport on total inland waterways transport performance in (tonne kilometres) increased every year since 2009, exceeding 10 % (see Figure 1) from 2014 onwards and reaching 11.3 % in 2017.

Figure 1: Share of containers transport on total inland waterways transport, EU-28, 2009-2017
(%, based on tonne-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ATYGO) and (IWW_GO_ACTYGO)

Movements of empty containers in the EU in terms of twenty-foot equivalent unit kilometres (TEUkm) have continued to increase between 2009 and 2015, reaching a peak of 620 million TEUkm (see Figure 2). In 2016, a substantial fall by -5.4 % was observed, immediately followed by a rebound in 2017 (+2.3 %), however still below the volumes observed in 2015. When looking at movements of loaded containers, the picture is slightly different. After the post-economic crisis recovery in 2010, transport performance of loaded containers dropped in 2011, and then rebounded with four consecutive years of growth. In 2015, movements of loaded containers fell by -5.7 %. Then, a positive trend was observed both in 2016 and 2017, to reach a peak of 1.1 billion TEUkm in 2017. Altogether, the transport performance of containers in TEUkm rose by 4.9 % in 2017, reaching a peak of 1.7 billion TEUkm, mainly influenced by the increase in loaded containers.

Figure 2: Containers transport performance, EU-28, 2009-2017
(million TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO)

For the most part, the international transport of containers dominates domestic or transit traffic (see Figure 3). It accounted for over half the TEUkm for loaded containers, every year since 2009 except in 2016 (49 %). The highest share was observed in 2009 with more than 56 %. National transport of containers came second every year, closely followed by transit transport. National transport of containers increased every year since 2009, even if the increases in 2013 and 2016 were very low (less than 0.3 % compared to the previous year).

Figure 3: Containers transport performance by type of transport, EU-28, 2009-2017
(million TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO)

The picture for empty containers was very different. While international traffic was still the major element for TEUkm, national traffic was dominant in terms of TEUs. These differences are related to the very high level of movements of empty containers within Belgium and the Netherlands. If the transport performance of loaded containers (in TEUkm) increased by 6.3 % in 2017 (see Table 1), the growth was slightly smoother at 5.7 % (see Table 2). By contrast, movements of empty containers rose by 2.3 % (Table 3) in terms of TEUkm and more sharply by 4.9 % (Table 4) in terms of TEUs.

Table 1: Transport performance of loaded containers by type of transport, 2014-2017
(thousand TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO)

Table 2: Transport of loaded containers by type of transport, 2014-2017
(TEUs)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO)

At country level, the Netherlands and Germany are by far the main contributors to the inland waterway transport performance of containers (in TEUkm). When looking at transport of containers in TEUs, Belgium also plays an important role. This reflects the importance of these countries as hosts for major transit ports (Rotterdam and Antwerp) or as a major source or destination for container movements (Germany). Indeed, in 2017, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands together represented more than 94 % of total movements of loaded and empty containers in the EU.

Table 3: Transport performance of empty containers by type of transport, 2014-2017
(thousand TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO) See Data coverage

Table 4: Transport of empty containers by type of transport, 2014-2017
(TEUs)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO) See Data coverage

For EU-28, 65 % of TEUkm counts for shipment of loaded containers in 2017 (see Figure 4) . France, Germany and the Netherlands exceeded the 2017 EU level. Luxembourg scored almost 50 %, Belgium and Romania scored around 30 %; the other countries reported only empty containers. Countries with exclusively or very high levels of empty containers transported on inland waterways reported methodological clarifications related to the structure of their transport: the empty containers are brought on inland waterways from one port to another to be loaded and then taken further by road or rail. In some cases, for instance in Austria, the empty containers themselves are considered a good.

Figure 4: Transport performance of containers by loading status, 2017
(%, based on TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGO)

40-feet containers are predominant on EU inland waterways

In terms of the size of loaded containers being transported, 40-feet freight units were dominant at EU level, accounting for 71 % of containers (Figure 5). 20-feet containers were the next most commonly-used type with 27 % (see Figure 5), while intermediate containers (> 20-feet and <40-feet) and containers over 40-feet accounted each for just 1 % of the total. Only Germany reported movements of containers over 40 feet. The 40-feet freight unit is the most popular in the main inland waterways countries such as Belgium (53 %), Germany (72 %), the Netherlands (71 %); and France (78 %). Romania transported more than 72 % of 20-feet containers and Luxembourg half of 20-feet and 40-feet containers.

Figure 5: Transport performance of loaded containers by size of containers, 2017
(%, based on TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACSIZE)

For empty containers at EU level, the picture looks very similar with intermediate and very large containers accounting for 3 % and 1 % of the total, respectively (Figure 6). 40-feet containers are the most commonly reported for transport of empty containers. The only exceptions is Luxembourg, where there is a high level of 20-feet containers.

Figure 6: Transport performance of empty containers by size of containers, 2017
(%, based on TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACSIZE)

Country-to-country flows

Country-to-country flows in 2017 illustrated the dominance of the three main inland waterways countries: Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. The top five flows are between these three countries, and they account for more than 74 % of the total flows in TEUkm (see Table 5). When looking at TEUs, these countries cover the top six flows, accounting for almost 80 % of the total flows in TEUs (see Table 6).

Table 5: Top 10 international country flows for transport of containers, 2017
(thousand TEU-kilometres)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGOFL)

However, the ranking of these flows varies depending on whether they are measured in TEU or in TEUkm. Thus, because of their proximity, Netherlands/Belgium goes from position two in country-to-country flow by TEU to position five when measured by TEUkm. France integrates in the top ten flows in terms of TEUs, while Switzerland is part of the top ten flows in terms of TEUkm. In particular, the flows between Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland made it into the top 10 when analysed by TEUkm due to the long distances to be travelled.

Table 6: Top 10 international country flows for transport of containers, 2017
(TEUs)
Source: Eurostat (IWW_GO_ACTYGOFL)

Data sources

All figures presented in this article have been extracted from the Eurostat online inland waterways transport database. The related datasets are collected according to Regulation (EU) No 2018/974 of the European Parliament and of the Council on statistics of goods transport by inland waterways. Regulation (EU) No 2018/974 consolidated the initial Regulation (EC) No 1365/2006 on statistics of goods transport by inland waterways and all its implementing and amending legal acts: Commission Regulation (EC) No 425/2007 (implementing regulation), Commission Regulation (EC) No 1304/2007 (amending regulation) and Regulation (EU) No 2016/1954 (amending regulation).

Regulation (EU) 2018/974 states that data must be supplied by all Member States for which the total volume of goods transported annually by inland waterways exceeds one million tonnes. Currently, eighteen Member States provide data on mandatory or voluntary basis: Belgium (BE), Bulgaria (BG), Czechia (CZ), Germany (DE), France (FR), Croatia (HR), Italy (IT), Lithuania (LT), Luxembourg (LU), Hungary (HU), the Netherlands (NL), Austria (AT), Poland (PL), Romania (RO), Slovakia (SK), Finland (FI), Sweden (SE) and the United Kingdom (UK). The legal act requires only the provision of a reduced annual dataset for countries exceeding the one million tonnes threshold but where no international or transit traffic exists. In this regard, the United Kingdom reports only a reduced dataset on a mandatory basis.

Definitions

EU-28 includes data for all Member States that provide data.

Calculation of EU aggregates: In Tables 2 and 4, the EU-28 international and total goods transport in tonnes and TEUs is calculated excluding double counting. The EU-28 total international transport is calculated by adding the international unloadings plus the international loading for which the unloading country is not in the EU-28. Then, the EU-28 total transport is calculated by adding the national transport and the total international transport.

National inland waterways transport: Inland waterways transport between two ports of a national territory irrespective of the nationality of vessel.

International inland waterways transport: Inland waterways transport between two ports located in different national territories.

Inland waterways transit: Inland waterways transport through a national territory between two ports both located in another national territory or national territories provided that in the total journey within the national territory there is no transhipment.

TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) is a statistical unit based on an ISO container measuring 20 feet (6.10 m) to provide a standardised measure for counting containers of various capacities and for describing the capacity of container ships or terminals. One 20-feet ISO container equals 1 TEU.

Country specific notes

The Netherlands: Due to a methodological change, data on containers were underestimated in 2009 and cannot be compared with other years.

Symbols

  • ":" not available
  • "-" not applicable
  • "0" real zero

Context

The content of this statistical article is based on data collected within the framework of Regulation (EU) No 2018/974 of the European Parliament and of the Council on statistics of goods transport by inland waterways.

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  • Transport, see table under 'Inland waterways transport':
Inland waterways transport (t_iww)
Goods transport by inland waterways (ttr00007)
  • Transport, see datasets under the following categories:
Inland waterways transport (iww)
Inland waterways transport infrastructure (iww_if)
Inland waterways transport equipment (iww_eq)
Inland waterways transport - Enterprises, economic performances and employment (iww_ec)
Inland waterways transport measurement - goods (iww_go)
Inland waterways - accidents (iww_ac)