• A positive evolution in 2019 in the Rhine basin was the recovery of water levels from their low points in late 2018. Water levels on the Austrian and German Danube fell during the course of 2019, and the possible draught of vessels dropped below 200 cm at the beginning of 2020.
• Freight rates for dry and liquid cargo on the Rhine, in the Netherlands and in Germany did not show any major increase in 2019 and remained on a level that corresponded to their multi-annual average.
• Freight rates in France, especially in the Seine region, continued to increase and remain on a high level, as already in the year 2018.

 

IMPACT OF HYDRAULICITY CONDITIONS

  • Higher loading rates of vessels have economic consequences and consequences on hydraulicity. The economic consequence is a better usage of the vessel, leading to lower transport costs per tonne. The hydraulic consequence is a higher draught of the vessel (Draught = loading depth of the vessel at rest). Therefore, the navigable channel depth is a decisive economic criterium.
  • The available draught of a vessel is calculated on the basis of water levels and parameters specific for each gauging station: the equivalent water level, the minimum navigation channel depth that is guaranteed by the waterway administration, and a security margin under the keel (about 20 cm if the river bed is composed of sand and gravel, and up to 40 cm for river beds composed of rock) (See: Swiss Association for Navigation and Port Economics, SVS aktuell, Dec. / January 2019, pages 7-8).
  • The following figures show the available draught for several important gauging stations on the Rhine and Danube. In 2019, there was a recovery from the low water period in 2018. However, for the two gauging stations on the German Danube, the available draught dropped to under 2 metres.
  • In November 2019, the European Commission gave a positive opinion, subject to a series of conditions (p.11. Commission Opinion issued at the request of Germany pursuant to the second subparagraph of Article 6(4) of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora: deepening the Danube waterway between Straubing and Vilshofen; section Straubing-Deggendorf (Germany/Bavaria)), regarding the technical upgrade of the stretch of the Danube between Straubing and Deggendorf, in order to enable a navigable channel depth of at least 2.5 metres for 185 days per year (See: Die Binnenschifffahrt, EU-Kommission macht Weg zum Donauausbau frei, 29 November 2019). This measure should also lead to a higher average draught of vessels over this stretch of the Danube.

 

FIGURES 1 AND 2: IMPACT OF HYDRAULICS: THE POSSIBLE DRAUGHT OF VESSELS AT IMPORTANT GAUGING STATIONS ALONG THE RHINE AND THE DANUBE (IN CM)


Source: CCNR calculation based on data provided by the German Office for Hydrology and the Federal state of Lower Austria

FREIGHT RATES IN THE RHINE REGION AND IN FRANCE

FIGURES 3 AND 4: FREIGHT RATE EVOLUTION FOR DRY CARGO PER SAILING AREA IN THE RHINE REGION (INDEX 2015=100)


Source: Panteia

  • The dry cargo freight rate index shows that differences in navigation conditions (available draught) have a significant influence on freight rates. Conditions for domestic transport in the Netherlands and for transport on the lower Rhine are less marked by low waters than navigation on the middle and upper Rhine. In the dry cargo sector, the absence of low water periods in 2019 also meant that there was no upward tendency for the freight rate level.

 

FIGURE 5: FREIGHT RATE EVOLUTION FOR LIQUID CARGO* FROM THE ARA REGION TO RHINE DESTINATIONS (INDEX 2015=100)


Source: CCNR calculation based on PJK International
* Gasoil
PJK collects freight rates (in Euro per tonne) for ARA-Rhine trade of liquid bulk. The CCNR transforms these values into an index with base year 2015.
Lower Rhine: Duisburg, Cologne

Upper Rhine: Karlsruhe, Basel
Main: Frankfurt/M

  • In the course of 2019, liquid cargo freight rates for deliveries from the ARA region to the Rhine hinterland were stimulated by a refilling of stocks and an increase of imports. In September, two refineries underwent maintenance works (the Swiss refinery of Cressier and the MIRO refinery in Karlsruhe, Germany), so that greater volumes were imported via the Rhine. In October, November and December 2019, rising water levels, the relatively high stocks of oil products in the hinterland, and the absence of cold weather put freight rates under pressure.

 

FIGURE 6: FREIGHT RATE INDEX FOR INLAND NAVIGATION IN FRANCE (INDEX 2015=100)


Sources: Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition / INSEE

  • In France, a dynamic increase of freight rates in the Seine basin can be observed in 2018 and 2019, compared to a smaller increase in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais basin (region around Dunkerque and Lille at the border with Belgium). An overall reason for increasing freight rates in France is the general boom of dry cargo transport in the country, especially in Paris and the Seine basin (see chapter 1).

 

QUARTERLY IWT TURNOVER EVOLUTION PER COUNTRY IN EUROPE

FIGURE 7: TURNOVER EVOLUTION OF INLAND NAVIGATION COMPANIES (GOODS TRANSPORT* – INDEX 2015=100)


Sources: CBS and Destatis
* Data for Germany: only goods transport, data for the Netherlands: goods and passenger transport, but goods transport has a share in turnover of 92%.

  • In the two largest IWT countries in Europe, turnover decreased with rising water levels. Hereby, turnover of Dutch IWT companies settled on a level that corresponded to their average turnover level in 2015. German IWT companies, however, settled on a turnover level that was 20% lower than their average level in 2015.
  • Net turnover generated by Dutch and German inland waterway goods transport companies accounts for around 80% of all net turnover generated by IWW goods transport companies in the EU (see table).

IWW goods transport *NetherlandsGermanyEU-28
Number of companies3,2956685,600
Net turnover (in mio. Euro)2,5001,6895,271
Persons employed9,9914,21122,000

Sources: Eurostat [sbs_na_1a_se_r2] and CBS
Values are for 2017 (latest data available).

  • Comparing the number of companies with the number of persons employed reveals differences in company size. The average number of persons active (employees, self-employed, and unpaid family members) per company is 3.0 for Dutch companies, compared to 6.3 for German companies, reflecting the higher share of smaller companies (self-employed barge owners) in the Netherlands.

 

FIGURE 8: TURNOVER EVOLUTION OF INLAND NAVIGATION COMPANIES (PASSENGER TRANSPORT* – INDEX 2015=100)


Sources: Eurostat [sts_setu_q], Destatis, INSEE
*Data for France and Germany: only passenger transport
Data for Austria contain both goods and passenger transport turnover, but passenger transport has the majority in Austria.

  • Turnover in passenger transport is strongly seasonal. Concerning the countries for which quarterly data are available (Austria, France and Germany), the 2019 figures show a higher turnover level compared to one year earlier.
  • German companies’ annual turnover is on rank 2 in Europe. In Germany, 58 river cruise vessels are registered, 783 day trip vessels on rivers and canals, and 130 day trip vessels on lakes.
  • French companies’ annual turnover is on rank 4 in Europe. In France, 32 river cruise vessels are registered. A specific feature of the country is the segment of small cruise vessels with less than 40 beds (19 small cruise vessels operate on French waterways). And there are 365 day-trip vessels on rivers and canals (Data on the number of day trip vessels on lakes in France are currently not available from VNF).
  • Austrian companies’ annual turnover is on rank 7 in Europe. The Austrian Danube stretch is one of the most important operation regions for river cruises in Europe. But in Austria itself, not many river cruise vessels are registered. Austrian companies are more active in day trip navigation. Austrian day trip vessel companies transport around 700,000 passengers in line traffic each year in Austria, and around 100,000 passengers on thematic and charter trips (Source: Via Donau, Annual report 2018).
  • More than half of all IWW passenger transport turnover in the EU is generated in Switzerland, Germany and France. This is explained by the presence of many river cruise companies in Switzerland. Indeed, 153 river cruise vessels (= 43% of the total European fleet) are registered in Switzerland.

IWW passenger transportAustriaSwitzerlandFranceGermanyEU-28*
Number of companies83992524344,103
Net turnover (in mio. Euro)907443415453,104
Persons employed5472,0912,0746,10324,230

Sources: Eurostat [sbs_na_1a_se_r2], Statistik Austria, Eidgenössische Steuerverwaltung
Values for 2017, except Austria (2018) and Switzerland (2016)
* including Switzerland

Cost evolution

  • Fuel costs are analysed on the basis of the CBRB fuel cost index. The Centraal Bureau voor de Rijn- en Binnenvaart (CBRB) in the Netherlands determines a fuel price index for the IWT sector. The purchase price per 100 liters of gasoil, which is regularly determined by the CBRB in a market survey, is the starting point for the determination of fuel surcharges for all companies in the IWT sector.
  • CBRB data indicate that fuel costs rose by 2.6% in 2019, compared to 2018. The further outlook points to a slightly falling tendency in the coming years. Declining oil prices are the major reason for this.

 

FIGURE 9: AVERAGE BUNKER PRICES ACCORDING TO CBRB AND OIL PRICES INCLUDING FORECAST*

Sources: CBRB and Oxford Economics. Toe = Tonnes of oil equivalent
* Oil price forecast is based on Oxford Economics (in US-$). The forecast contains the assumption of an appreciation of the Euro from 1.09 US-$ per Euro in Q1 2020 up to 1.16 US-$ per Euro in Q4 2022.

  • According to the European Commission’s Economic Forecast from November 2019 (See: https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-performance-and-forecasts/economic-forecasts/autumn-2019-economic-forecast-challenging-road-ahead_en#economic-forecast-documents), the recovery of oil production in Saudi Arabia and the uptake of shale oil production in North America (both developments increase the supply side) are major drivers for the falling tendency of oil prices.
  • Labour costs follow an upward trend in inland navigation, due to the increasing shortage of personnel. Regarding insurance costs, an important development is the rising accident rate in the field of groundings and collisions with infrastructure (bridges). There are also differences in the damage rate between particular rivers (The number of accidents per tonne-kilometre of goods transport is higher on the Danube, for example, than on the Rhine and the Main). Nevertheless, information from insurance companies suggests that insurance premiums are not on an overall rising path. This is related to the high degree of competition between the insurance companies that are active in this type of insurance.
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