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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 is 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, as far as the Rhine is concerned, container transport and dry bulk transport were the hardest hit by the recession and the slowdown in world trade. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine continued to impact considerably freight transport on inland waterways in the first semester of 2023.

 

FREIGHT TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN EUROPE

    TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN IWT ON THE NATIONAL TERRITORY OF EACH COUNTRY IN EUROPE – COMPARISON BETWEEN Q1+Q2 2022 AND Q1+Q2 2023 (IN MILLION TKM) *

    Map with the rate of change for each country
    Sources: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave], OECD (Switzerland, Lithuania and Republic of Moldova). For Belgium, estimation based on data from De Vlaamse Waterweg and SPW Service public de Wallonie.
    * For the UK and Italy, data are not available on a quarterly basis.
    For Ukraine, data were not available. The Danube Commission reported an increase of 297% in terms of waterside cargo transported in Ukrainian ports in Q1+Q2 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. This increase is linked to the ‘Solidarity Lanes’ initiative.

     

    TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN MAIN EUROPEAN IWT COUNTRIES

      FIGURE 1a: INLAND WATERWAY TRANSPORT PERORMANCE IN MAIN WESTERN EUROPEAN IWT COUNTRIES (IN MILLION TKM, QUARTERLY DATA OF TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE ON THE NATIONAL TERRITORY OF EACH COUNTRY)


      Source: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave] and own calculation for Belgium, based on data from De Vlaamse Waterweg and SPW Service public de Wallonie
      Due to a structural break in the data from the Belgian statistical office between Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, data for Belgium from this quarter onwards were recalculated. This was done by applying the rates of change present in the data from the Flemish and the Wallonian waterway administrations.1

       

      FIGURE 1b: INLAND WATERWAY TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN MAIN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN IWT COUNTRIES (IN MILLION TKM, QUARTERLY DATA OF TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE ON THE NATIONAL TERRITORY OF EACH COUNTRY)


      Source: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave]

     
     

    DRY BULK, LIQUID BULK AND CONTAINER TRANSPORT IN MAIN IWT COUNTRIES AND REGIONS *

      FIGURE 2: DRY CARGO TRANSPORT (IN MILLION TONNES)



       

      FIGURE 3: LIQUID CARGO TRANSPORT (IN MILLION TONNES)



       

      FIGURE 4: CONTAINER TRANSPORT (IN MILLION TONNES)



      Sources: Eurostat [IWW_GO_QCNAVE], Destatis, Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, De Vlaamse Waterweg, SPW Service public de Wallonie, Voies navigables de France, Romanian Institute of Statistics
      Notes: for Belgium-Wallonia, quarterly container statistics in tonnes are not available. The product group “machines/other goods” was assumed to consist mainly of container transport. The data include total IWT on the territory of the country/region. In earlier reports, only the volumes transported on the Traditional Rhine, namely the Rhine from Basel to the German-Dutch border, were reported. From now onwards, it will become possible to report on transport volumes on the entire Rhine from Basel to the North Sea (including link to Antwerp via the Rhine-Scheldt link). When calculating the total volume of goods transported on the entire Rhine, all steps were taken to avoid double counting. To learn more about the methodology used to calculate traffic on the entire Rhine please refer to the methodology section.

       
       

    RHINE AND DANUBE NAVIGATION

      FIGURE 5: TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE ON THE ENTIRE RHINE AND THE DANUBE PER QUARTER (IN MILLION TKM)


      Sources: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave], Destatis (Rhine and affluents)
      * Entire Rhine = Rhine from Rheinfelden (CH) to the North-Sea (including link to Antwerp via the Rhine-Scheldt link)
      ** Danube = TKM in all Danube countries but without Ukraine

       

      TABLE 1: FREIGHT TRANSPORT ON THE ENTIRE RHINE IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2022 AND 2023, BY MAIN FREIGHT SEGMENTS *

      1st half 2021 in million t1st half 2022 in million t1st half 2023 in million tVariation 2023/2022 in %
      Petroleum products33.2330.6830.78+0.3
      Sand, stones, gravel and building materials23.1825.9223.41-9.7
      Chemical products25.3626.1322.21-15.0
      Solid fuels (coal)11.4514.3411.62-19.0
      Iron ore11.8511.0011.17+1.5
      Agricultural products, foodstuffs and fodder19.0014.8312.01-19.0
      Metals and metal products7.798.286.81-17.8

      Source: Destatis, Rijkswaterstaat, CCNR analysis
      * The sum of the freight segments selected does not correspond to total transport.
      Entire Rhine = Rhine from Rheinfelden (CH) to the North-Sea (including link to Antwerp via the Rhine-Scheldt link)

       

      FIGURES 6 AND 7: TRADITIONAL RHINE TRANSPORT VOLUME UPSTREAM AND DOWNSTREAM FOR MAJOR CARGO SEGMENTS (IN MILLION TONNES, FOR Q1-Q2 OF 2022 AND 2023)



      Source: CCNR analysis based on Destatis – statistics for the entire Rhine according to upstream or downstream direction not available
      * Traditional Rhine = Rhine from Rheinfelden (CH) to the German-Dutch border

       

    • In the first half of 2023, economic conditions evolved slowly. High inflation had a negative impact on household purchasing power. As a result of this high inflation, the European Central Bank raised its key interest rates sharply and the consumer and construction sectors suffered, as financing costs rose. The general economic slowdown also had a negative impact on the industrial sector. In addition, a considerable number of inland (dry cargo) vessels were exported to eastern Europe to handle the alternative route for grain transport from Ukraine, leading to serious shortages of fleet capacity on certain trades in western Europe, which probably contributed to the reduction of transport performance in those areas.
    • The effects on the entire Rhine traffic were reflected by a 10.8% decline in freight transport in the first semester of 2023. Cargo transport on the entire Rhine reached 131.7 million tonnes in the first half year of 2023. As many industrial sectors are dependent on inland waterway transport, most inland waterway freight segments have seen a decline in their transport volume. Container transport and dry bulk transport were the hardest hit by the recession and the slowdown in world trade.
    • While taking into consideration the traditional Rhine only during the first semester of 2023, it can be observed that cargo transport amounted to 77.4 million tonnes, compared to 84.7 million tonnes in the first semester 2022. This represents a decrease of 8.6%.
    • Despite the overall reduction in transport volume, the trends vary greatly depending on the type of goods involved. In the case of chemical products, a fall of 15% was observed. The chemical industry is currently suffering from an economic slowdown due to the rise in the price of chemical raw materials (for example natural gas prices) which can explain the rise in the cost of manufacturing chemical products and the fall in demand. This conclusion also holds when looking specifically at the traditional Rhine, for which downstream and upstream data are also available. Downstream transport of chemicals decreased by around 17% on the traditional Rhine in the first half year of 2023 while upstream transport of chemicals, which has a share of 57% of all chemicals on the traditional Rhine, decreased by around 10%.
    • It is also worth noting that the 9.7% decrease in demand for sand, stones, gravel and construction materials is linked to interruptions and delays in the supply chain and the shortage of personnel in the construction sector. The nitrogen crisis in the Netherlands is also having a negative impact in several ways. For instance, construction stagnates when permits are lacking which leads to less demand for building materials and their transport. Another major factor likely to have an impact on transport demand for sand, stones, gravel and building materials is the rise in interest rates by the European Central Bank. This has led to a sharp fall in the number of applications for construction loans. The resulting slowdown in construction activity is also weighing on transport demand for this type of goods. For this segment, it is also worth noting the specific figures for the traditional Rhine as around 76% of all sand, stones, gravel and building materials transported on the traditional Rhine are transported in the downstream direction. This reflects the abundance of these materials in the Upper Rhine region and their exportation towards the Lower Rhine region. In the first half year 2023, the downstream transport of sand, stones, gravel and building materials was approximately at the same level as it was during the same period the previous year. Exports were therefore resilient in view of the deterioration of economic framework conditions.
    • On the entire Rhine, while coal transport was still enjoying an upward trend in 2022, these effects fell sharply in 2023. As a result, coal transport declined in 2023. In the first half of 2023, the level of coal transport was close to that recorded in the first half of 2021.
    • For the largest freight segment, petroleum products, transport demand in the first half of 2023 remained close to the level recorded in the same period of the previous year. The fall in oil prices in 2023 is likely to have had an impact, with the result that economic conditions were better for this segment than for most others.
    • The downward trend in container traffic (-12.8% in the first half of 2023 compared with 2022) is explained by the disruption to global supply chains and the decline in international trade.
    •  

      FIGURES 8 AND 9: MIDDLE DANUBE TRANSPORT VOLUME UPSTREAM AND DOWNSTREAM FOR THE MAJOR CARGO SEGMENTS (IN MILLION TONNES, FOR Q1-Q2 OF 2022 AND 2023) *



      Source: Danube Commission market observation report
      * Detailed data according to goods segment and quarters are only available for the Middle Danube at Mohacs.

       

    • The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine considerably impacted freight transport on the Danube in the first semester of 2023.
    • In the reporting period, the Danube shipping market was impacted by the decline in steel consumption, particularly in the construction and automotive industries, and the corresponding decline in deliveries of iron ore and coking coal (upstream transport).2 In addition, restrictions on exports of grain by individual countries in the Danube region (Hungary, Serbia) weighed heavily on downstream transport of grain. This decrease in goods transport is observed for transport between the Upper and Middle Danube region on the one hand, and the lower Danube region on the other hand.
    • In the lower Danube region, however, transport demand was higher due to the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes initiative to facilitate Ukraine’s agricultural export and bilateral trade with the EU. In the first half of 2023, freight traffic on the Danube-Black Sea Canal amounted to 10,528,000 tonnes, which represents an increase of 18% compared to the corresponding figure for 2022.

 
 

PASSENGER TRANSPORT IN EUROPE

  • Passenger transport was highly impacted by the Covid-19 crisis in 2020 and only began to recover in the second semester of 2021 for both the Rhine and the Danube. The Danube, as well as the Rhine and its Moselle, Main, Neckar and Saar affluents, are important operating areas for river cruises in Europe, alongside the Seine, Rhône and Douro.
  • A statistical measurement point for cruise vessels on the Rhine is the lock of Iffezheim on the Upper Rhine.
  •  

    FIGURE 10: NUMBER OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS PASSING THE LOCK OF IFFEZHEIM ON THE UPPER RHINE IN THE FIRST HALF YEAR PER MONTH


    Source: German Waterway and Shipping Administration
     

  • With 1,117 cruise vessels passing through the lock of Iffezheim in the first half year of 2023, pre-pandemic levels were reached. In comparison, during the same period in 2019 and 2021, there were respectively 1,078 and 55 cruise vessels which passed through this lock. The figures in 2023 were also slightly higher than in the previous year 2022 (1,089).
  • However, no data on the number of passengers are available for this lock, which makes it difficult to evaluate the degree of capacity utilisation of river cruise vessels that pass through it.
  • For the Danube, data are available for the lock of Jochenstein near Passau. Alongside Vienna and Budapest, Passau is an important place where cruise vessels both start and finish their journey.
  •  

    FIGURE 11: NUMBER OF RIVER CRUISE VESSELS PASSING THROUGH THE LOCK OF JOCHENSTEIN NEAR PASSAU ON THE UPPER DANUBE IN THE FIRST HALF YEAR PER MONTH


    Source: German Waterway and Shipping Administration
     

  • Data for the first half year of 2023 confirmed the strong recovery which had been observed for 2022. Indeed, 1,332 river cruise vessels passed through the lock of Jochenstein between January and June 2023 (1,355 during the same period in 2022), which illustrates a rather stable demand for passenger transport on the Upper Danube, as illustrated in figure 11.
  • In both cases, it is important to note that the utilisation rate of the river cruise vessels passing the locks is also a key indicator when assessing the recovery of the river cruise sector. For the first half-year 2023, the data for the Danube point to slightly lower utilisation rates of cruise vessels compared to the same period in 2022 (38.2% in 2023 compared to 42.0% in 2022). Capacity utilisation was still below the pre-pandemic levels (first half year 2019: 56.1%).
  •