Facts & Figures


2017 figures - outlook for 2018

Inland waterways shipped in total more than 558 million tonnes in 2017 or 6 million tonnes more than in 2016. Both national and international transport increased by +1.2 % and +1 %, respectively. Transport performance stayed more or less stable at 147 million tonne-km. Waterborne tourism is growing at a double digit rate. 2018 however resulted in a less transport by water following a prolonged dry summer period with low water levels.

Shipped commodities in 2017
At EU level, the main types of goods transported in 2017 were metal ores, coke and refined petroleum products and products of agriculture. This top 3 accounted for more than half of all goods transport on EU inland waterways. Behind stable overall figures profound changes are taking place over the years. While traditional commodities like coal and petroleum products are stagnating, the shipped volumes of containers, chemicals and agribulk are increasing. Transport performance of containers saw an upwards swing of almost 5% pointing to a transition towards an energy-efficient and low-carbon economy on the one hand and the increasing integration of inland waterway transport in the supply chain on the other.

Summer drought in 2018
Water levels affect the transport of inland waterways. 2018 was a difficult year with a prolonged drought period for most of Europe’s navigable waterways. In the German Rhine area, industrial production was affected by low water levels causing disruptions of logistics chains which could not be backed up by road and rail transport. While the summer of 2018 is not considered an anomaly in the Rhine statistics, we expect a further increase in drought periods and flash floods due to global warming. Large vessels are more vulnerable to this trend as smaller and low-draughts vessels show more flexibility. In EU infrastructure policy and our vision, we elaborate on climate change and how to address it.

European inland waterways by numbers:

  • A 40,000km congestion-free network 
  • 20,000km accessible to 1,000 tonne  vessels
  • 75% of EU waterway traffic crosses borders
  • 550 million tonnes are shipped by waterways every year

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