The Market Insight Report – November 2020 contains key figures relating to the European Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) for the first half of 2020. The Covid-19 crisis has had some severe effects on goods and passenger transport, but there were also market segments which escaped from the downfall.
The pandemic has had the most severe impact on passenger transport, due to the canceling of river cruises and day trip excursions from March 2020 onwards. In France, for example, the financial turnover of IWW (Inland Waterway) passenger transport companies was 91% lower in the second quarter (Q2) of 2020 than in the same quarter one year earlier. In Germany, the reduction of financial turnover in passenger transport companies amounted to 72% in Q2 2020. Passenger transport turnover suffered also in Austria, where it has a higher share in total IWT turnover than goods transport.
The effects of the pandemic on goods transport were different according to cargo segments and regions. A main observation was the reduction of iron ore transport due to the interruption of automobile production in March. On the Rhine, iron ore transport lost 15% in the first five months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. On the Middle Danube, it was reduced by 32%. Sands, stones and gravel transport lost 34.8% in France in Q2 2020, where it is the largest cargo segment.
Two cargo segments escaped the downfall: petroleum products benefited from the sharp oil price decrease, which triggered more import, transport and storage activities for heating oil. The transport for this liquid cargo category was at the same level as one year earlier, both on the Rhine and on the Middle Danube.
The second cargo segment which avoided a decrease was grain transport. On the Middle Danube, there was an increase of 76% for grain transport, as harvest results were much improved compared to the previous year. There was also a strong increase of grain transport on the Lower Danube in Romania (+66.4%) and a slight increase in France (+0.8%).
Spot market freight rates were on a downward trend, especially for dry cargo. For mineral oil products, the first half year showed relatively stable rates, thanks to the replenishment of storage depots. But these effects have so far been subsiding in the second half of the year and liquid cargo freight rates are now decreasing.
The financial turnover of goods transport companies was far less affected than passenger transport. For German goods transport companies, the year-on-year reduction was 9% in Q2 2020. In the Netherlands, this indicator reached -17%, but this figure includes both goods and passenger transport companies.
One chapter of the report focuses on Austria, where inland waterway transport has a high modal split share for imports from eastern countries (within the trimodal Danube corridor).
River cruise traffic on the Austrian Danube increased by 80% between 2010 and 2019, but the years 2020 and 2021 will see a sharp interruption of this positive trend due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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