Inland waterways freight transport - quarterly and annual data
Data extracted in November 2019.
Planned article update: November 2020.
Inland waterways freight transport, EU-28, 2009-2018
This article presents the main annual and quarterly statistics on inland waterways goods transport in the European Union (EU) in 2018. It includes quarterly and annual data for total transport and container transport, and annual data for transport by type of goods, type of transport, type of vessel and type of dangerous goods.
Inland waterways freight transport performance dropped by 8.3 % in 2018 compared with 2017
Activity in inland waterways transport has been volatile in the period 2009-2018. Measured in tonne-kilometres, activity increased sharply in the first months of 2010 but this improvement was not sustained in 2011. A recovery took place from 2012 until mid-2013 and a further decline took place until mid-2016. A slight rebound was observed in 2017 (+0.3 %) followed by a sharp fall in 2018 (Figure 1). The comparison of 2018 and 2017 figures reveals a decrease of -10.2 % and -13.8 % in international and transit transport, respectively, and a +0.7 % increase in national transport, leading to a substantial overall decrease of -8.3 % in 2018 (Table 1). A similar trend can be observed in terms of tonnes with an increase of +1.9 % for national and a decrease of -5.9 % for international transport, resulting in a total drop of -2.1 % (Table 2).
At quarterly level, movement was more erratic and no seasonal pattern can be identified (Figure 2). The second half of 2015 showed a sharp fall (-12.5 % in the third quarter compared with the second quarter). An upturn was observed in the first semester of 2016 with increases of +8.7 % and +2.3 % in the first and second quarters, respectively. A decrease was registered in the last quarter of 2016 (-6.0 %, compared with the third quarter). Year 2017 also started with a decline of -3.1 % in the first quarter but was immediately followed by a steady rebound (+14.5 %) in the second quarter. The year ended on a downward trend with -2.1 % and -0.7 % in the third and fourth quarters. In 2018, the year started with a decline of -4.8 % followed by a steady rebound in the second quarter (+ 7.2 % compared to previous quarter). The third (-15.3 %) and fourth (-10.6 %) quarters of 2018 showed sharp declines when comparing to the previous quarter. When looking at the change compared to the same quarter of the previous year, only the first quarter increased (+5.9 %). The third (-14.2 %) and fourth (-22.7 %) quarters fell dramatically.
The main contributors by far to the EU inland waterways transport (in tonne-kilometres) were Germany and the Netherlands. Transport on inland waterways in these two countries accounted for almost 70 % of the EU inland waterways transport in 2018 (Table 1). In 11 countries, the volume of transport (in tonne-kilometres) decreased in 2018. The largest decrease was observed for Austria by -26.4 %, followed by Hungary by -19.3 %, Croatia by -16.7 %, Slovakia by -16.6 % and Germany by -15.5 %. In absolute values, Germany registered the highest reduction of -0.9 billion tonne-kilometres in 2018 compared with 2017. By contrast, Lithuania (+106.2 %), Italy (+21.2 %) and Sweden (+19.1 %) registered the largest increases in 2018. It has to be noted that these countries have only very low levels of inland waterways transport in the EU.
When looking at the transport of freight in tonnes, the picture is quite different (Table 2). Altogether 15 countries recorded decreases. The largest falls in 2018 were in Austria (-25.1 %) and Czechia (-23.5 %). Among the other countries, 9 registered a drop between -10 % and -20 %. By contrast, only Romania (+2.3 %) and Belgium (+1.8 %) increased. It should be noted that while Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Sweden registered a large increase in transport in tonne-kilometres, a substantial decrease was observed in the transport of goods in tonnes. On the contrary, Romania registered a decrease in transport in tonne-kilometres and an increase in the transport of goods in tonnes.
Looking at the volume of freight transported per inhabitant, at EU level, 1.1 tonnes were transported on inland waterways in 2018 (Figure 3). The Netherlands had the highest volume with 20.9 tonnes per inhabitant, followed by Belgium (17.9 tonnes per inhabitant) and Luxembourg (9.4 tonnes per inhabitant). All other countries registered less than 3 tonnes per inhabitant in 2018; for 9 countries, less than 100 kilograms per inhabitant were transported.
‘Metal ores’ is the largest individual goods category transported
At EU level, the main types of goods (according to NST_2007 classification) transported in 2018 were ‘metal ores’, ‘coke and refined petroleum products’ and ‘chemicals, rubber and plastic, nuclear fuel’. ‘Products of agriculture’ lost the third place compared to 2017. These top 3 categories accounted for more than half of all goods transport on EU inland waterways (Figures 4).
All types of goods recorded a decrease in 2018 compared to 2017 (Figures 5). The largest fall was observed for ‘coal and crude petroleum’ (-14.5 %), followed by ‘products of agriculture’ (-12.7 %). Compared with 2017, the shares of ‘metal ores’ and ‘chemicals, rubber and plastic, nuclear fuel’ in total transport performance increased (by 1.3 percentage points for ‘metal ores’ and 0.1 percentage point for ‘chemicals, rubber and plastic, nuclear fuel’), while the share of ‘coke and refined petroleum products’ fell by -0.3 percentage points.
Self-propelled barges accounted for more than half of total EU transport performance in 2018
In 2018, the ‘self-propelled barge’ was the predominant type of vessel used for goods transport on EU inland waterways, carrying more than half the total EU transport of goods (Figure 6). The volume of goods transported with self-propelled barges decreased by -9.6 % compared with 2017. The second most used type of vessel was ‘barge not self-propelled’, a category also with decreased use in 2018 compared with 2017 (-9.3 %). Only the category ‘tanker barge not self-propelled’ increased in 2018 compared with 2017 (+13.7 %).
The two most-used vessel categories accounted for the largest volumes transported for all countries with the exception of Slovakia (Figure 7). Together with ‘self-propelled tanker barges’, they accounted for over 91 % of all types of vessels used by 11 out of 13 countries. The two exceptions, France and Slovakia, recorded substantial use of ‘other goods carrying vessels’ (26 % and 76 %, respectively).
Main nationalities of freight transport vessels on EU inland waterways
In 2018, almost half of the freight transport vessels on EU inland waterways were registered in the Netherlands (Figure 8). The other half was composed of 51 different vessel nationalities of which Germany (16 %) and Belgium (11 %) have the highest shares.
When looking at the top 3 freight transport vessel nationalities in each Member State, in 2018, Dutch vessels were in the top 3 nationalities for 5 countries out of 13 and are first place in Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (Table 3). Altogether, 6 countries have their own nationality as the most represented: Belgium, Czechia, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania. Regarding Czechia, almost all vessels were registered (99.9 %) in Czechia and the only other freight transport vessels were registered in Germany. A similar situation could be seen in Poland with a large share of Polish vessels (95.8 %). On the contrary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Luxembourg, Hungary and Slovakia did not have vessels registered in their own country in the top 3 places. All countries had a cumulated share of the top 3 vessel nationalities higher than 49 %, 7 countries had a cumulated share of the top 3 nationalities higher than 80 % and 5 countries had a cumulated share of the top 3 nationalities higher than 90 %.
Container transport performance declined sharply in 2018
The inland waterways transport of freight containers in the EU-28, measured in twenty-foot equivalent unit-kilometre (TEU-kilometres), showed a consistently upward trend until 2014. The levels remained relatively stable in 2015 and 2016. An increase was observed in 2017, reaching a new peak in container transport. In 2018, a sharp decline was recorded (-8.8 % compared with 2017) (Figure 9).
At quarterly level, a global increase in trend is visible from 2010 to 2017. Strong increases were recorded in the third and fourth quarters of 2017 when comparing with the same quarters of 2016 (+7.9 % and +12.9 %, respectively). This led to a new peak in the third quarter of 2017. In 2018, after substantial increases in the first and second quarters of 2018 (+8.8 % and +2.5 % compared to the same quarter of 2017, respectively), considerable decreases were observed in third and fourth quarters of 2018 (-13.3 % and -30.6 %, respectively). This led to a new low point in the fourth quarter of 2018 (Figure 10). A seasonal pattern can be observed with increases in the first three quarters when compared with the previous quarter and a substantial fall in the fourth quarter. Exceptions are 2014, 2015 and 2018, where a drop in the third quarters was registered. In 2018, a drop was also observed in the first quarter.
When looking at the loading status of containers, EU freight container transport in TEU-kilometres fell by -9.1 % in 2018 for loaded containers and by -8.2 % for empty containers (Table 4). In 2018, loaded containers accounted for almost two thirds of total container transport.
The largest contribution to transport of containers came from the Netherlands, closely followed by Germany. Together, the 2 countries accounted for 88 % of all the EU container transport. Altogether, 8 countries recorded a drop in container transport in 2018 compared with the previous year. The main decreases were observed for Poland (-100 %), Hungary (-38.2 %), Romania (-37.9 %) and Austria (-33.8 %). For Slovakia and Poland, very few containers are usually transported and they did not report any container transport in 2018. By contrast, 2 countries strongly increased their container transport performance in 2018: Luxembourg (+110.0 %) and Bulgaria (+30.4 %).
‘Flammable liquids’ is the most transported dangerous goods category in EU inland waterways
The transport of dangerous goods is a voluntary data collection. Only 9 countries of 13 reported data in 2018 (Table 5). While it is still difficult to identify the types of dangerous goods transported at EU level, it can be observed that ‘flammable liquids’ was the main category in all the countries reporting such data. Overall, 'flammable liquids' accounted for almost 51 % of reported total dangerous goods transport. Czechia and Slovakia reported no transport of dangerous goods in 2018.
Source data for tables and graphs
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 1 million tonnes. Currently, 18 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.
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.
Transit inland waterways transport: 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 transshipment.
Calculation of EU aggregates: In Table 3, the EU-28 international and total goods transport in tonnes is calculated excluding double counting. In order to achieve that, the EU-28 total international transport is calculated by adding the international unloadings declared by the EU countries 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.
For transit transport measured in tonnes, an EU-28 aggregate equal to the sum of the country figures is not valid because volumes of freight transported are reported by all transit countries through which the transport takes place before reaching the unloading destination. Therefore the same volume may be reported two, three, or more times without the possibility to eliminate multiple counting. At the same time, figures for transit transport are included in the EU-28 national or international transport as they are reported not only by the transit countries but also by the loading and unloading countries. So for the EU-28 total volume of freight, it is enough to sum the total national and international figures.
Country specific notes
Bulgaria: Transit data supplied include Romanian national IWW transport data equivalent to Bulgarian transit transport.
Croatia: Quarterly transit transport is not available.
Italy: Data are delivered on a voluntary basis. Only a simplified annual dataset is provided.
Lithuania: Data are delivered on a voluntary basis. Only a simplified annual dataset is provided.
Hungary: Due to a methodological change, transit data are underestimated for the third quarter 2013 and are not comparable with the other quarters.
Romania: Transit data supplied include Bulgarian national IWW transport data equivalent to Romanian transit transport.
Finland: No data available for 2017 and 2018. Data are delivered on a voluntary basis. Only a simplified annual dataset is provided.
Sweden: Data are delivered on a voluntary basis. Only a simplified annual dataset is provided.
United Kingdom: Regulation (EU) No 2018/974 states that a reduced annual dataset must be provided by countries exceeding the 1 million tonnes threshold but have no international or transit traffic. In this regard, the United Kingdom reports only a reduced annual dataset on a mandatory basis.
Breakdown by group of goods The NST 2007 classification is available on RAMON.
- ":" not available
- "-" not applicable
- "0" real zero
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.
- 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)
- Inland waterways transport (ESMS metadata file)
- Glossary for transport statistics - 5th edition - 2019
- Regulation (EU) No 2018/974 of the European Parliament and of the Council on statistics of goods transport by inland waterways
- Summaries of EU legislation: EU statistics of goods transport by inland waterways
- Regulation (EC) No 1365/2006 on statistics of goods transport by inland waterways
- Commission Regulation (EC) No 425/2007 (implementing regulation)
- Commission Regulation (EC) No 1304/2007 (amending regulation)
- Regulation (EU) No 2016/1954 (amending regulation)