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  • Transport demand saw a downward trend in the first half of 2023. In the two countries with the highest transport performance, Germany and the Netherlands, there was a decline in transport performance by 8.5% and 7.7% respectively.
  • With regard to the different types of cargo, the strongest decrease in percentage terms was observed for container transport, followed by dry cargo transport. This was a consequence of the decline in world trade and industry production.
  • Cargo transport on the entire Rhine reached 131.7 million tonnes in the first half year of 2023 (-10.8%). Also, with regard to the Rhine, container transport and dry bulk transport were the hardest hit by the recession and the slowdown in world trade. On the Danube, dry bulk product segments (coal, iron ore, grain, etc.) were amongst the cargo segments that suffered the most. Overall, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine continued to impact considerably freight transport on inland waterways in the first semester of 2023.
  • In terms of the number of cruise vessels passing locks on the Rhine and Danube, the recovery of passenger transport from the pandemic was confirmed, by reaching values slightly above the first half year of 2019. Capacity utilisation was however still below pre-pandemic levels, as is validated by the figures for the Danube.
  • Freight rates in cargo transport showed a decline in the first half year 2023. A main reason is the normalisation of water levels. Dry bulk spot market prices in particular were on a downward trend, reflecting the end of the coal boom in dry cargo transport and the end of the low water period.
  • Fuel prices in IWT also declined, following the decrease in oil prices. The reasons were mainly demand-driven, as the disruptions in trade and transport created a downward movement in oil and fuel demand. The outlook for fuel prices for the year 2024 points to a level of around 80 Euro per 100 litres.
  • The last part of the report highlights inland waterway transport in Belgium. Both in Flanders and Wallonia, the largest goods segment is sands, stones, gravel and building materials. This goods segment has a share of 37% of the entire transport volume in Flanders and a respective share of 44% in Wallonia.
  • In Belgium, most of the container transport occurs in Flanders. Data from the Flemish waterway administration point to a positive trend until the year 2021 but after that to a more negative trend.
  • The explanation for this pattern is the development of maritime container transport. Indeed, for ports in the North Range, including Belgian seaports, maritime container transport decreased between 2021 and 2023. The reason for this decrease is the decline in world trade that stems from the geopolitical crisis.