Facts & Figures


Behind the volatile figures of the past years, profound changes are taking place. The well-known image of barges transporting coal, ores and petroleum is slowly overtaken by increasing high value shipments of containers and chemical products. This points at two lasting trends. The 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.

Inland waterways shipped in total almost 544 million tonnes in 2015. This is a 1.3% decrease in tonnage in comparison to 2014. The picture of decrease in tonne-km looks similar, but also points at shorter distances travelled. The year started well, but the second half took a dip mainly due to a prolonged low water period in fall. The dry period was particularly severe on the Upper Danube.

The Netherlands and Germany remain the largest inland shipping nations in the EU, followed by Belgium and France. Together, almost 84% of the volumes by barge is shipped on their territory and they account for 77% of the overall transport performance. By modal share, the Netherlands , Romania and Bulgaria have most goods carried by inland shipping. The Czech Republic and Croatia both registered an upswing in transport performance by more than 20% in 2015. Metal ores, coke and refined petroleum and agribulk still represent half of the transport performance while coal and fuel markets are stagnating. The agribulk business and the building industry are expected to continue an upward trend. The container business continues to increase and is a growing market on the Rhine, the Seine and elsewhere, with the exception of the Upper Danube, Elbe and Odra.

2016 started with an upward trend, but the last two quarters followed economic activity and suffered from a new dry water period, albeit not as severely as in 2015.

Trends in waterway logistics


European inland waterways offer:

  • A 40,000km congestion-free network 
  • 20,000km accessible to 1,000 tonne  vessels


Facts & Figures

FF General 150  IWT Numbers Square

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