1. Freight traffic on inland waterways and in ports

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• Transport performance on inland waterways in the European Union in Q1 2019 recovered from the low water period in the second half of 2018. Indeed, with a value of 37.5 billion tonne-kilometres in Q1 2019, transport performance was 30 % higher than in Q4 2018, a period during which the Rhine, the Danube and the Elbe suffered heavily from low waters.
• Among the three countries with the highest IWW transport performance in the EU (Germany, the Netherlands, Romania) in Q1 2019, the growth rate in Q1 2019 compared to Q4 2018 was the highest in Germany (+62 %), which was mainly a result of the resumption of transports on the Rhine on a large scale.
• The EU IWW transport performance in Q1 2019 was also 5.5 % higher compared to the same quarter one year earlier (Q1 2018).

 

TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN EUROPE

TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN IWT ON THE NATIONAL TERRITORY OF EACH COUNTRY IN EUROPE – COMPARISON BETWEEN Q1 2018 AND Q1 2019 (TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN MILLION TKM)

Source: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave], OECD, Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, De Vlaamse Waterweg, SPW Service Public de Wallonie

 

 
 

FIGURE 1: INLAND WATERWAY TRANSPORT (IWT) PERFORMANCE ON THE RHINE, RHINE AFFLUENTS*, DANUBE**, BELGIAN AND DUTCH WATERWAYS (TRANSPORT PERFORMANCE IN MILLION TKM)

Source: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave], OECD, Destatis, Stat.Bel, De Vlaamse Waterweg, SPW Public Service Public de Wallonie
* Traditional Rhine = Rhine from Basel to the German-Dutch border. Rhine affluents: Main, Moselle, Neckar, Saar
** Danube = Transport performance in Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria

  • Goods transport on Dutch inland waterways, the traditional Rhine and the Danube recovered from the low water period in the second half of 2018. On the Rhine, dry mass cargo made the strongest upward bound, as its transport performance was 3.9 % higher in Q1 2019 than in Q1 2018. It is possible that Q1 2019 dry and liquid cargo volumes also include the backlog volumes which were originally to be shipped in Q4 2018, thus contributing to this strong increase.

 

FIGURE 2: GOODS TRANSPORT ON THE TRADITIONAL RHINE PER CARGO SEGMENT AND QUARTER (IN MILLION TONNES)

Source: Destatis. Break bulk cargo or general cargo are goods that must be loaded individually, and not in intermodal containers nor in bulk.

     

  • An exception from the recovery is container transport. Its performance on the traditional Rhine was still 11 % lower in Q1 2019 than in Q1 2018. Two main explanations can be found for this phenomenon:
    1) First, according to some main logistics operators, shippers are currently more reluctant to choose inland waterways for container transport than they had been before the low water crisis (Information by Danser France, Haeger & Schmidt Logistics, Contargo AG).
    Indeed, compared to the dry and liquid mass cargo transport, where inland waterway transport is often the only possible mode of transport, containers can also be delivered by rail or road. This is also shown by the evolution of waterside container traffic in the Swiss Rhine ports. In the first half year 2018, a modal shift from rail to IWT had taken place due to the effects of the Rastatt accident (interruption of railway line on the Rhine axis). However, the low water period in the second half of 2018 led again to a modal shift, but this time it was a loss of market shares for inland waterway transport: the results of Rhine container traffic in the first half year of 2019 were 16 % lower than they had been in the first half year of 2018 (Source: Swiss Rhine ports).
    2) A second reason for the weaker results in container traffic is the cooling off in economic framework conditions, notably of world trade, since the second half of 2018. This had a more important effect on container transport (which is more world-trade-oriented) than on mass cargo transports.
  • The Danube also recovered from the low water period of 2018. Transport for the two main market segments – agricultural products and iron ores – registered remarkable growth rates in Q1 2019, not only with regard to the second half of 2018 but also with regard to Q1 2018.
  • Cross-border transport between Serbia, Croatia and Hungary registered a 30 % increase in Q1 2019 compared to Q1 2018 (source: Danube Commission), as did total inland waterway transport in Hungary (source: Eurostat). Booming upstream transport of iron ore and downstream transport of agricultural products were the underlying growth factors.
  • The Danube Commission market observation report for Q1 2019 also indicates that downstream traffic of grain – from the Middle Danube region of Hungary, Serbia and Croatia to the ports in Romania – doubled in Q1 2019 compared to Q1 2018. Better harvest results and a recovery of water levels were the main reasons for this increase. Other market segments on the Danube, such as mineral oil products and coal, registered a certain decline.
  • Product segments and their trends are also a major reason for the evolution of transport on Rhine affluents. Traffic on the Main, Moselle, Neckar is presented in the following chart. It shows that the two major eastern affluents of the Rhine (Main and Neckar) recovered from the low water period much better than the major western affluent, the Moselle. Traffic on the Moselle was, in Q1 2019, still well below the levels of Q1 and Q2 2018.
  • An underlying cause can be found in the different trends on the level of goods between the Main and Neckar on the one hand, and the Moselle on the other hand. On the Main and Neckar, the largest goods segment is that of sands, stones and gravels, which reveals a growth orientated outlook (see chapter 9 of the 2019 annual market observation report) (See: CCNR / EC (2019), Annual Report of Market Observation 2019, chapter 9: https://inland-navigation-market.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/ccnr_2019_Q2_en-min.pdf).
  • Coal transport on the Moselle, however, has decreased quite strongly in recent years without being compensated by other goods segments, such as agricultural products, ores and steel, which have been rather stagnant. The energy transition and the decrease in coal transport are therefore major challenges for inland waterway transport on the Moselle.

 

FIGURE 3: QUARTERLY INLAND WATERWAY TRANSPORT ON RHINE AFFLUENTS (IN MILLION TONNES)

Source: Destatis

 
 

TRANSPORT VOLUME IN MAIN EUROPEAN IWT COUNTRIES

FIGURE 4: INLAND SHIPPING TRANSPORT VOLUME IN MAIN EUROPEAN IWT COUNTRIES (QUARTERLY DATA – MILLION TONNES)

Source: Eurostat [iww_go_qnave], National Statistical Offices and Belgian Waterway Administrations

 
 

DRY BULK, LIQUID BULK AND CONTAINER TRANSPORT

FIGURE 5: RATE OF CHANGE IN INLAND SHIPPING TRANSPORT VOLUME (TONNES) IN FIVE MAJOR IWT COUNTRIES (Q1 2019 VS Q1 2018 – %)*

Source: CBS, Destatis, StatBel, De Vlaamse Waterweg, SPW Service Public de Wallonie, VNF, Romanian Institute of Statistics
*In Romania, container transport is almost non-existent and is therefore not depicted in the graph.

 

  • France witnessed a very strong increase in dry cargo transport in Q1 2019. This is also confirmed by figures from Ports de Paris: inland waterway traffic in the largest French port was 32.8 % higher in the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018 and reached 12.7 million tonnes.
  • For sands, stones and building material, which is the largest product segment in Ports de Paris, an inland waterway traffic of 9.8 million tonnes in the first half year 2019, compared to around 7.3 million tonnes in the first half year 2018 (+34 %), is observed. A main reason for this increase is the Grand Paris Express project, which integrates inland vessels for the construction of new metro lines (Sources : Ports de Paris, and INSEE Conjoncture Normandie – Le bilan économique, June 2019). In addition, during the first half of 2018 floods on the Seine reduced cargo transport.
  • In the Netherlands and Germany, the common feature in Q1 2019 was a recovery of liquid cargo transports. Container transport in Germany has not been able to reach the level it had in the first half of 2018 so far.
  • Romania’s strong growth in dry cargo is due to a recovery of its large segments: agricultural products (+85 %), iron ore (+15 %) and construction material (+62 %). As confirmed in the Danube Commission market observation report (Market observation report of the Danube Commission for the 1st quarter 2019), this very large growth in agricultural transports can be explained by the recovery of water levels in the Middle Danube, from which grain and other products are delivered to the Lower Danube ports in Romania.

 

TABLE 1: SHARE OF DRY CARGO, LIQUID CARGO AND CONTAINER TRANSPORT IN Q1 2019 (BASED ON TONNES)

Source: CBS, Destatis, StatBel, VNF, Romanian Institute of Statistics

 Dry cargoLiquid cargoContainer
Netherlands52 %34 %14 %
Germany*59 %25 %10 %
Belgium51 %31 %17 %
France81 %13 %6 %
Romania96 %4 %0 %

* For Germany, transport statistics also contain the category of break bulk cargo, representing around 5 % (not included in table above). Break bulk cargo or general cargo are goods that must be loaded individually, and not in intermodal containers nor in bulk.