2. River-sea transport in Europe: the case of seagoing ships navigating on inland waterways

Download the PDF

OVERVIEW OF RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN EUROPE PERFORMED BY SEAGOING SHIPS

  • River-sea shipping takes place on all major rivers in Europe that have a connection to the open sea. In the EU, this type of river-sea transport can especially be found in Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal and Romania. Outside the EU, it is well developed in Russia and Ukraine.

KEY RIVER-SEA AREAS IN EUROPE

  • Several major users of sea-river shipping in Europe are the Belgian, German and Romanian steel industries, the Swedish and Finnish timber industries, the petroleum sector in Great Britain, the agricultural sector in the Danube region and in France.
  • Transport of steel products takes place downstream on the river Rhine and transport of Scandinavian timber, paper products and liquefied gaseous products upstream.
  • One quarter of the Trollhätte Canal (Sweden) transport movements consists of oil products.
  • The main trading partners of German river-sea transport are found in northern Europe (Great Britain, Norway and Sweden), while for Belgium and France, there are two main trading routes: one in the north (Great Britain, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway), and another in the south (Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, Italy). France also imports ammonium nitrate exclusively from Antwerp via river-sea transport up to Rouen, on the Seine.
  • Trading partners of Finland are mainly Russia, the Netherlands, the Baltic states and Germany.
  • River-sea transport in Romania is orientated towards the Mediterranean region of southern Europe.
  • Overall, at present, almost 64 million tonnes of goods are transported via river-sea transport in the European Union. Almost 25 million tonnes of goods are transported via river-sea transport in Russia.

 

TABLE 1: OVERVIEW OF RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN EUROPE PERFORMED BY SEAGOING SHIPS

CountryTransport volume river-sea (mio. t)*Transport volumes inland waterway transport (mio. t)*Most important goods segment within river-sea transport
Great Britain47.64.1**Crude petroleum and petroleum products
Russia25115Oil and oil products, grain, coal, timber, metals, fertilizers
Sweden6.620Timber and oil products
Romania4.5029Agricultural products
The Netherlands4.48359Iron and Steel
Belgium1.9205Iron and steel
Finland1.30.4Timber and raw minerals
Germany0.76198Iron and steel
France0.7560Ores, metallurgical scraps and metal products, agricultural products

Source: CCNR analysis based on national statistical offices of the countries mentioned in the table, TrafikAnalys, and Rijkswaterstaat, Russian Chamber of Shipping
*Figures for 2018 for Finland, France, Germany, Romania, Russia, Sweden and the Netherlands, figures for 2017 for Belgium and Great Britain.
**River-sea-traffic in Great Britain is 11.6 times higher than pure inland waterway traffic.

 

  • If river-sea transport was understood as part of the total inland waterway transport figures in the UK, Finland, and Romania, the total transport volumes for inland waterway transport would soar. In Belgium, Germany and France, river-sea transport represents less than 1.5% of total inland waterway transport. In Sweden, this comparison is less relevant as no inland waterway transport is currently recorded.

 

LEGAL AND ECONOMIC ASPECTS RELATED TO RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT PERFORMED BY SEAGOING SHIPS

  • Seagoing ships that perform river-sea transport are intended to navigate both on inland waterways and at sea, without a transhipment in a seaport. They have an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number. They must therefore be able to navigate in both areas and comply with specific classification rules. They must be built under the supervision of a recognised Classification Society in accordance with its classification requirements.
  • In addition, they must comply with regulatory requirements in force in both sea and inland waterway (IWW) areas. Technical rules related to the equipment and safety of vessels have been settled in an EU directive that apply to all IWWs in Europe (EU Directive 2016/129 laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32016L1629). However, seagoing ships with statutory seagoing ship certificates (technical requirements as regards construction, equipment and environment) such as SOLAS, Load Lines, or MARPOL (Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), Load Lines (LL), Prevention of Marine Pollution from ships (MARPOL)), are allowed to operate on tidal waters or temporarily on EU IWW (Article 2 of EU Directive 2016/129) without having to comply with the technical requirements prescribed in this EU directive. Outside the Rhine, as far as these requirements are fulfilled, a river-sea ship can therefore navigate on inland waterways up to the point where the navigation conditions simply do not allow it to navigate any further (depending on the waterways’ and river-sea ships’ characteristics).
  • Regarding the Rhine in particular, specific technical requirements apply to vessels navigating on the Rhine. This also applies to seagoing ships on the Rhine, which, as well as a seagoing ship statutory certificate must also hold a “certificate for sea-going vessels operating on the Rhine” (In compliance with Article 25.01.2 of the European Standard laying down Technical Requirements for Inland Navigation vessels laying down special provisions applicable to seagoing ships navigating on the Rhine: https://www.cesni.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/ES_TRIN_2019_en.pdf). In addition, seagoing ships carrying liquid or gas dangerous goods may navigate on EU inland waterways only if they hold an ADN certificate (European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (ADN)).
  • Regarding environmental requirements, seagoing ships adapted to navigate on inland waterways must comply with environmental requirements applicable to seagoing ships, in particular IMO pollution and emission standards, and not with those applicable to inland vessels.
  • Beyond regulatory and statutory requirements, conditions for river-sea shipping also vary between countries and depend greatly on the geographical situation, the sailing area, the waterways infrastructure and weather conditions. Indeed, river-sea ships are often designed for operation in a specific sailing area and have to comply with the length and width requirements as well as draft and height restrictions, specific to the region where they operate. For instance, seagoing ships navigating on the Saimaa inland waterways (lake system in Finland) must have ice class.
  • River-sea transport performed by seagoing ships must not be confused with transport operations combining inland and maritime transport, requiring transhipment operations between the two.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT AND COMBINED INLAND AND MARITIME TRANSPORT:

 

  • The strong advantage of river-sea shipping lies in the absence of seaport transhipment. This results in lower transport costs, time-saving (avoiding possible congestion and related delays in a seaport), and a reduced risk of damage to goods resulting from additional transhipment. River-sea shipping is therefore well adapted to carrying fragile goods (such as paper), goods which need to be transported under very strict “non-damage-conditions” (besides paper, also certain metals and metal products), as well as project cargo (oversized and heavy cargo and equipment).
  • Another advantage of this type of transport is found in its unique market range, allowing seagoing ships to connect overseas destinations with locations quite far in the hinterland. Indeed, a wide range of ships of different size and capacity is available, with the newest ships often being characterised by lower draught, allowing them to navigate further in the hinterland. For instance, from the port of Duisburg, some river-sea ships are able to carry project cargo all the way to the Iberian Peninsula and Casablanca without transhipment. In addition, it is an environmentally friendly mode of transport. According to the main actors in the river-sea sector, these environmental considerations and political support towards modal shift to greener modes can therefore positively influence demand for this type of transport.
  • However, as explained above, river-sea ships must be adapted to navigate on IWW, and river-sea shipping is dependent on the state of inland navigation, the related infrastructure and the water levels. The proper development and maintenance of inland waterway infrastructure (in particular ageing of bridges and locks) and the waterways themselves is paramount for the well-functioning of river-sea transport. As is the case for pure inland waterway transport, the lack of predictability (e.g. variation in freight rates) and reliability (delays, variation in water level) of river-sea transport can negatively influence demand for this kind of transport. An important challenge for river-sea shipping therefore lies in its ability to provide transport services all year long and under all weather conditions. In addition, the “just-in-time principle” is hard to maintain with high variations in accessibility of river ports.
  • River-sea ships are also limited in their capacity when navigating on inland waterways, making it difficult for such seagoing ships to realize economies of scale. Moreover, river-sea ships are constructed more heavily and have a smaller displacement volume at similar draft (i.e. a smaller block coefficient) than inland vessels. In addition, river-sea shipping often competes with a combination of maritime and inland waterway transport involving transhipment, in particular when handling rates and inland waterway freight rates are low. River-sea ships are also expensive to build and to operate. For all these reasons, river-sea shipping therefore finds its economic rationale in very specific segments and routes.
  • Additional challenges that river-sea transport is facing have also been identified by the main actors in this market (In particular, members from the EBU river-sea shipping Committee) :
    – Language: English not commonly accepted on all inland waterways.
    – Ageing fleet: about half of the river-sea fleet is more than 25 years old. About one-third of the fleet is less than 15 years old. Indeed, for companies that have not recently invested in their fleet, new fleet investment is generally considered or approved, in particular to renew an ageing fleet, to anticipate a shortage of river-sea ships in light of increasing demand, or to invest in new engines. However, the high costs related to new river-sea ships can be a barrier.
    – General lack of knowledge about river-sea transport.

 

RIVER-SEA GOODS TRANSPORT IN MAIN EUROPEAN UNION COUNTRIES

RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

 

Definitions and waterway areas

  • According to definitions by the National Department for Transport, river-sea transport is defined as all seagoing traffic that crosses into inland waters, thereby passing the inland waterways boundary, which is a geographically defined boundary in the estuary region of rivers. The location of this boundary is defined via the average wave height. The boundary itself is a straight line between two points at shore. The exact definition of the UK Department of Transport states that this inland waterway boundary is defined as “the most seaward point of any estuary which might reasonably be bridged or tunnelled [and] this is taken to be where the width of water surface area is both less than 3 km at low water and less than 5 km at high water on spring tides.” (Source: UK Department for Transport (2017), Domestic waterborne freight 2017: notes and definitions)
  • The next four maps cover the four estuary areas in the UK with the highest level of river-sea transport. They show the Inland Waterways Boundary (IWB, in pink) and the most important ports and wharves along the rivers. The blue line shows the so-called Smooth Waterline, which should not be confounded with the IWB. All transport that remains completely within this Smooth Waterline is counted as pure (internal) inland waterway traffic. However, for river-sea-traffic, the IWB is relevant, and all traffic coming from or going to high sea, and crossing the IWB, is counted as river-sea traffic (Source: UK Department for Transport (2017), Domestic waterborne freight 2017: notes and definitions). For the river Thames, the Smooth Waterline lies outside the part of the Thames estuary shown in the map.

 

 

RIVER THAMES WITH INLAND WATERWAY BOUNDARY*, PORTS AND WHARVES FOR RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT

Source: UK Department for Transport / CCNR
*in pink

 

RIVER FORTH WITH INLAND WATERWAY BOUNDARY, PORTS AND WHARVES FOR RIVER-SEA-TRANSPORT

Source: UK Department for Transport / CCNR

 

MANCHESTER SHIP CANAL/RIVER MERSEY WITH INLAND WATERWAY BOUNDARY, PORTS AND WHARVES FOR RIVER-SEA-TRANSPORT

Source: UK Department for Transport / CCNR

 

RIVER HUMBER WITH INLAND WATERWAY BOUNDARY, PORTS AND WHARVES FOR RIVER-SEA-TRANSPORT

Source: UK Department for Transport/CCNR

 

 

Transport by origin and destination

  • In the UK, the amount of cargo transported by river-sea shipping is by far the largest compared to any other western European country. River-sea traffic can be split into three components: foreign traffic (coming from foreign countries or going to foreign countries), coastwise traffic (seagoing traffic between UK seaports and ports inside the Inland Waterway Boundary) and one-port traffic (seagoing traffic between national offshore installations and ports inside the Inland Waterway Boundary). Foreign traffic has by far the largest share within river-sea-traffic in the UK. Its share was between 76% and 80% between 2014 and 2017.

 

 

FIGURE 1: EVOLUTION OF TOTAL RIVER-SEA-TRANSPORT IN THE UK (IN MIO. T)*


Source: UK Department for Transport *represents all seagoing traffic on inland waters according to the definitions of the UK Department for Transport (foreign traffic, coastwise traffic, one-port traffic)

 

  • The overall amount of river-sea traffic shows a clear cyclical pattern. The curve reflects to a large extent the overall business cycle movements in Europe, in particular a falling economic activity after the financial crisis in 2000, followed by a rising tendency in world trade and production between 2003 and 2008, another financial crisis between 2009 and 2013, and another recovery since then.

 

Transport by type of good

  • The product segment with the largest share in river-sea transport is the liquid bulk segment of crude petroleum and petroleum products. In the years 2014-2017, its share fluctuated between 37% and 40%. All kinds of liquid bulk taken together had a share of 43% in 2017.
  • Dry bulk (agricultural products, iron ore, coal, etc.) represented 33% in 2017. Unitised cargo (containers, pallets, etc.) came next with a share of 17%, followed by general cargo (forestry products, iron and steel products and other products) with 7%.

 

 

FIGURE 2: RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN THE UK BY TYPE OF GOODS IN 2017

Type of goodsCoastwise (in mio.t)Foreign (in mio.t)One-port (in mio.t)Total (in mio.t)
Liquid Bulk
of which
1.718.90.020.6
Crude petroleum and petroleum products1.417.00.018.4
Dry bulk
of which
2.56.86.415.7
Ores0.20.50.00.7
Coal0.0~0.0~
Agricultural products0.21.70.02.0
Unitised Cargo0.27.80.08.0
General Cargo
of which
0.23.10.03.3
Forestry products0.01.10.01.1
Iron and steel products0.01.20.01.2
Total4.636.66.447.6

Source: UK Department of Transport* unitised cargo = containers, pallets, etc.

 

 

FIGURE 3: EVOLUTION OF RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN THE UK BY TYPE OF GOODS 2014-2017 (IN MIO.T)


Source: UK Department for Transport

 

 

Transport volume by inland waterway

  • The River Thames is in first place in regard to the amount of cargo transported by river-sea transport, with 24.3 million tonnes in 2017. Its river-sea traffic has grown substantially since 2013, and in general, largely determines the trend of the total river-sea traffic in the country, as described in the figure below. In second place comes the River Forth, a broad estuary in the eastern part of Scotland, and in third place the Manchester Ship Canal / River Mersey.

 

 

FIGURE 4: RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN THE UK BY INLAND WATERWAY


Source: UK Department for Transport

 

  • Along the Thames, in and around London, several wharves handle both pure inland waterway traffic and seagoing traffic that cross into the River Thames. According to the UK Department for Transport, these wharves are: Barking (London), Croydon (London), Dagenham (London), Erith (London), Greenwich (London), Northfleet (London), Purfleet (London), Silvertown (London), Tilbury (London).(Source: UK Department for Transport (2018), Domestic Waterborne Freight 2017: Notes and Definitions)

 

Outlook and specific developments

  • No specific infrastructure developments have been reported.
    As the UK is often a key trading partner for countries which have river-sea transport, this method of transport may be affected if Brexit leads to a decrease in overall transport volumes (in particular the automotive industry for which steel products are traded). The possible impact of Brexit on customs procedures will also affect river-sea transport.

 

RIVER-SEA TRANSPORT IN SWEDEN

 

Definitions and waterway areas

  • Sweden currently has two classified inland waterways areas:
    – The Port of Gothenburg, the Göta Alv river and Lake Vänern. The Göta Alv river, in conjunction with the Trollhätte Canal, connects the North Sea with Lake Vänern. Trollhätte Canal has six locks.
    – The Södertälje Canal, Lake Mälaren and parts of the Stockholm area. The Södertalje Canal connects the Baltic Sea with Lake Mälaren. The canal is 3.3 nautical miles long and has one lock. The lock is 135 metres long (it was previously 110 meters long).
  • The Swedish Transport Agency has classified more waterways, such as the Göta Canal (connecting Lake Vänern to the Baltic sea) and inner coastal waterways, but these areas have not yet been ratified by the government.
  • Since the implementation of the European Directive 2016/1629 (Directive (EU) 2016/1629 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels, amending Directive 2009/100/EC and repealing Directive 2006/87/EC) laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels, no inland waterway transport in Sweden has been recorded. However, as the above-mentioned waterways enable unproblematic river-sea connections between the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the interior of the country, there is a successful integration of river-sea shipping in Sweden.
  • International transport from and to these waterway areas is operated by seagoing ships, which necessarily cross both maritime and inland waterway areas. All international transport operations to and from these waterway areas can therefore be considered as river-sea transport. Similarly, domestic transport operations between ports on the Swedish coast and inland ports located on the above-mentioned waterways can be considered as river-sea transport.
  • The infrastructure – lakes, rivers, canals and inner coastal areas – are regarded as being very good. They have suitable depth and no tide or currents, allowing river-sea transport to be performed by seagoing ships with important tonnage capacity:
    – between 3000 and 4000 tonnes for seagoing ships reaching Lake Vänern through the Trollhäte Canal;
    – up to 9000 tonnes for seagoing ships reaching Lake Mälaren through the Södertälje Canal.

 

 

  • Today, detailed data regarding inland, maritime and river-sea transport are collected by the Swedish government agency for transport policy analysis (TrafikAnalys). However, as data-collection related to inland waterway areas began after 2016 (i.e. after the implementation of Directive 2016/1629), accurate data for river-sea transport are only available for 2017 and 2018. In addition, and for reasons of confidentiality, no detailed data regarding river-sea transport can be published, in particular related to the type of goods, the main trading partners and the ports of loading and unloading.
  • A mirror analysis and available literature however allows the identification of the main goods segments relevant for river-sea transport in Sweden, which are timber/wood products, oil products, crude iron and steel.
  • In the case of Sweden, it will therefore be important to analyse river-sea figures in a few years’ time in order to identify a trend for its river-sea transport, but also to provide more in-depth data if confidentiality concerns are removed.

 

Transport by origin and destination

  • In 2018, 6.62 million tonnes of goods were transported via river-sea transport to, from and within Sweden, of which 3.3 million tonnes consist of imports and 0.93 million tonnes consist of exports. Domestic river-sea transport amounted to 2.4 million tonnes. Between 2017 and 2018, overall river-sea transport in Sweden increased by 5%.

 

FIGURE 5: EVOLUTION OF TOTAL RIVER-SEA-TRANSPORT IN SWEDEN IN 2017 AND 2018 (IN MIO. T)*


Source: TrafikAnalys

justo ut commodo felis dolor. fringilla efficitur.