APRIL 2018

Annual report



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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 Q3 2016 and Q3 2017 (Transport performance in million TKM)



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

Source : Destatis, National Statistical Offices


  • On the traditional Rhine, after the strong recovery of transport performance between Q1 2017 and Q2 2017 (+11 %), transport performance consolidated at a high level. Its value in Q3 2017 was only 2 % lower than in Q2 2017. Compared to one year earlier, there was a growth of 1.5 %. The strongest contribution came from container transport (+12.5 % based on TKM), which reached a share of 18 % in transport performance.
  • Transport on the Rhine affluents was pushed by growing steel production, better harvest results and also better navigation conditions. The Moselle (+31 %) and Saar (+46 %) rivers benefited the most in Q3 2017, when compared to Q3 2016, due to the large role of iron ore (and grain on Moselle) transport on these rivers.
  • Danube navigation was influenced by two main factors. The positive aspect was a rising steel production, and therefore rising iron ore and metal traffic, which had a very positive effect on transport demand on the upper Danube. On the other hand, bad harvest results in the Danube region led to falling grain transports, the second backbone of Danube shipping.



Transport performance in main IWT European countries


Inland shipping transport performance in main European IWT countries (quarterly data – million TKM)

Source : Eurostat and National Statistical Offices


  • In both Germany and the Netherlands a certain consolidation took place after the strong recovery effects in Q2 2017. The better economic conditions, especially in the construction sector, had a positive effect on the dry cargo segment. The short and medium-term outlook is also especially favourable in this area. The strongest growth was observed in the container segment.
  • In Belgium, all important goods segments had a positive evolution – the highest growth rate was reached by agricultural products, due to the good harvest results in western Europe in 2017. A segment which accounts for half of all dry cargo transports in Belgium, is sands, stones, and building materials. Their transport performance was 7 % higher in Q3 2017 than in Q3 2016, due to structural and cyclical reasons (see chapter 1 and the part on ports traffic).
  • In France, the two largest product segments increased, i.e. agricultural products by 6 %, and sands, stones and building materials by 10 %. Likewise in France, this latter mentioned segment is very important (share of more than 1/3 in total transport performance). Negative evolutions were observed for coal transport (decarbonisation), and also for container transport.
  • In Austria, the dominant product segment is the steel segment (iron ores, metals) with a share of 40 % of total transports. The transport of iron ore and metal traffic increased very strongly, due to a rising steel production: Austrian steel production figures in Q3 2017 were  13 % higher than in Q3 2016.
  • In Romania, the falling grain transport from the middle Danube region dampened transport demand in Q3 2017, but a rising steel production in the Danube region acted as a stabilising force.



Dry bulk, liquid bulk and container transport


Rate of change in inland shipping transport performance in four major IWT countries (Q3 2017 vs Q3 2016 - %)

Source : National Statistical Offices


  • In Germany, container traffic benefited strongly from an interruption of rail traffic for seven weeks in August and September 2017, due to an accident in railway construction works (Rastatt incident (Near the German town of Rastatt on the upper Rhine, railway traffic along the Rhine axis was interrupted for 7 weeks between 12 August 2017 and 2 October 2017, due to the collapse of a tunnel)). Inland shipping on the Rhine proved its free capacities and its reliability when acquiring a higher number of containers, in order to keep logistical chains running.
  • In the Netherlands, the strongest growth (+12 %) was observed for the exports of goods in containers to other countries:  55 % of these container streams were destined for Germany, 37 % for Belgium, and 4 % for France. The second strongest growth was seen for the transport of containers within the country (+9 %).
  • In Belgium, the dry cargo transports were strongly supported by better harvest results in 2017: agricultural goods transport performance increased by 36 %. Likewise, the largest dry cargo segment (sands, stones, building materials, with a share of 50 % of all dry cargo transports in Q3 2017) had a significant increase (+7 %), due to the growing activity in the construction sector.
  • In Romania, the two major dry cargo segments (agriculture, iron ores & metals) had different results. While the steel segment benefited from the rising steel production in the Danube region, grain transport suffered under a worsening of harvest results in the middle Danube region. Liquid goods traffic has a very small share of only 4 %, and container transport only 0.02 %.



Waterside transport in European ports

Transshipment volume in (Q1+Q2+Q3) 2017, transshipment volume in (Q1+Q2Q+Q3) 2016 and rate of change between both




  • Ten largest Rhine ports: waterside traffic of 85.7 million tonnes in the first nine months of 2017, compared to 90 million tonnes in the same period of 2016 – a decrease of 5%, compared to a reduction of 2% of cargo traffic on the traditional Rhine. The difference can be explained by special effects in certain ports. (An important special effect was an accident in the port of Ludwigshafen in October 2016, which led to a strong reduction of ports traffic in 2017.)
  • Ports of Paris: total waterway traffic grew by 5 %. Sands, stones and building materials kept on increasing in 2017, by 9 %. Their share in total traffic grew from 74 % to 77 % within one year – a result of the favourable economic conditions for this segment, and the additional construction works in the Ile-de-France region (project Grand Paris Express).
  • Port of Brussels: increase of waterway traffic by 9 % due to the positive evolution for sands, stones and building materials (a parallel with the results on a national level in Belgium, the Netherlands and France). The growth in 2017 can also be explained by the Brussels port authorities’ efforts to convince companies to transport more sands and stones via inland waterways (modal shift initiatives).
  • Port of Liège: increase of waterway traffic by 3 %, and the two product segments with the highest growth rate were wood / wood products (+21 %) and manufactured goods (+21 %). The category of wood contains wood pellets that are used by an energy plant to produce electricity. This energy plant had been the first plant worldwide that was reconverted from coal to biomass in 2005 (see also chapter 4).
  • Port of Linz: traffic figures in one of the largest Danube ports rose strongly in the course of the year. After the cargo losses in Q1 2017 due to ice and low water levels, traffic results in Q2 were 18 % higher than one year earlier, and in Q3 2017 the difference was even 35 %, fostered by the rising steel production. For the sum of Q1-Q3 2017, the growth rate compared to Q1-Q3 2016 was only 2 %, due to the negative effects in Q1 2017.



Container transport in European ports


IWT Container traffic in European inland ports in (Q1+Q2+Q3) 2016 and (Q1+Q2+Q3) 2017 (1000 TEU)

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


Maritime container traffic in European seaports in (Q1+Q2+Q3) 2016 and (Q1+Q2+Q3) 2017 (in Mio TEU)

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



  • Port of Duisburg: in the biggest European inland port, located on the lower Rhine, around 265,000 container boxes with a total cargo weight of 4 million tonnes were transshipped per inland vessel in the first nine months, compared to 250,000 boxes and 4.1 million tonnes of cargo one year earlier.
  • Port of Duisburg: 67 % of all containers transshipped per inland vessel in Q1-Q3 2017 were loaded; this share had been 64 % one year earlier.
  • Swiss Rhine ports: after a weak first quarter 2017 due to low water levels on the Rhine, waterside container traffic had a strong stimulus in the third quarter – the Rastatt incident was followed by an interruption of rail traffic along the upper Rhine axis for seven weeks, leading to a strong modal shift towards IWT.
  • Swiss Rhine ports: in September 2017, TEU volumes were 36 % higher than in September 2016. Even after the railway lines were re-opened, river traffic had similar growth rates (October: +31 %, November: 34 %). It can therefore be assumed that large parts of the additional waterside traffic generated by the Rastatt incident will remain on the Rhine.
  • Ten largest Rhine ports: the sum of waterside container traffic in Q1-Q3 2017 was 4 % higher than one year earlier. The result for the entire year 2017 will certainly be much better, as the effects of the Rastatt incident could still be felt in the fourth quarter.
  • Ports of Paris: container traffic by IWT stagnated at a high level in 2017 (162,000 TEU) but, within this figure, the urban logistics segment – container transport with origin and destination within the Ile-de-France – progressed at a high rate (+14 %), reaching 33,500 TEU.
  • Port of Brussels: container traffic confirmed its record level of 2016, and increased further by 4 %, reaching 31,000 TEUs. Thanks to this growth, port authorities are already thinking about a further extension of the container terminal.

APRIL 2018

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