• The fleet of inland vessels in Europe consists of almost 10,000 vessels registered in Rhine countries, 3,500 vessels registered in Danube countries and 2,300 vessels registered in other European countries.
• In 2020, 27 new dry cargo vessels and 54 new tanker vessels were added to the fleets in western Europe. The recovery in newbuilding activity continued for both dry cargo and tanker vessels.
• The tanker fleet is the youngest fleet segment in Rhine countries, with a share of 52% of all tanker vessels built in the 21st century, whereas this share amounts to 16% for dry cargo vessels and 29% for passenger vessels.

 

SIZE OF FLEETS PER MACRO-REGION AND COUNTRY IN EUROPE

 

TABLE 1: SIZE OF FLEETS (NUMBER OF INLAND VESSELS) PER MACRO-REGION AND VESSEL TYPE IN EUROPE

 Dry cargo vesselsLiquid cargo vesselsPush & tug boatsTotal number of vessels
Rhine fleet6.9611.4351.3539.749
Danube fleet2.6522046423.498
Other countries*1.56126 #7272.314
Total number of vessels11.1741.6652.72215.561

Sources: 1) Rhine countries: VNF (France), CBS/Rijkswaterstaat (Netherlands), ITB (Belgium), Waterway Administration of Germany, National fleet register of Luxembourg, Swiss Waterway Administration. 2) Danube countries: Danube Commission. 3) Other countries: Eurostat [iww_eq_loadcap], [iww_eq_age], Czech Ministry of transport, Statistics Poland, Statistics Lithuania.
* Other countries = Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, United Kingdom, Finland, Lithuania
# comprises 9 tanker vessels in Poland, 1 in the Czech Republic and 16 in Lithuania, but an unknown number in the other countries.

 

  • The following figures show the number of dry and liquid cargo vessels taken together (self-propelled vessels and barges) and the number of push and tugboats per country in Europe. The data are the latest available and refer to 2020 for the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and to 2019 for all other countries, except for Italy (2018), the UK (2018) and Serbia (2017).
  • For Belgium and Luxembourg, Eurostat fleet data are not available, therefore national fleet data from waterway administrations and national fleet registers were used. National fleet data from waterway administrations were also taken for the Netherlands, as they seem to be the more reliable source.14 For other countries (e.g. France, Germany, Czech Republic, Lithuania), national fleet data match exactly the Eurostat [iww_eq_loadcap] data.
  • For Danube countries and other countries in Europe, the Eurostat fleet database [iww_eq_loadcap] was used.

 

FIGURE 1: NUMBER OF DRY AND LIQUID CARGO VESSELS PER COUNTRY IN EUROPE


Sources: Eurostat [iww_eq_loadcap] and national sources for Rhine countries
 

  • The data for the number of push and tugboats per country were taken from the Eurostat fleet database, with the exception of Belgium and Luxembourg (for both countries, Eurostat data were not available, so national waterway administration data were used).

 

FIGURE 2: NUMBER OF PUSH BOATS AND TUGBOATS PER COUNTRY IN EUROPE


Sources: Eurostat [iww_eq_age] and ITB (Belgium), vessel register for Luxembourg
 

EVOLUTION OF THE RHINE FLEET

 
DRY CARGO FLEET IN RHINE COUNTRIES
 

  • Fleet data used for this part are entirely based on national fleet data from waterway administrations. The reason is that a distinction between dry and liquid cargo vessels is only available in national fleet databases and in the IVR database, but not in the Eurostat databases.
  • Around 50% of all dry cargo vessels in Rhine countries (self-propelled vessels and barges, without push and tugboats) are vessels registered in the Netherlands. Data used for the Dutch fleet contain the inland vessels that are registered in the Netherlands and which were active in this country in 2020.15
  • Fleet data for other Rhine countries concern also predominantly active vessels and are delivered by the Belgian, German, French, and Swiss Waterway Administration, as well as from the vessel register of Luxembourg. The total number of dry cargo vessels in Rhine countries was, according to these sources, 6,942 in 2020, compared to 7,012 in 2019.

 

FIGURE 3: NUMBER OF DRY CARGO VESSELS IN RHINE COUNTRIES FOR 2020*


Source: CCNR based on national data (see table 1)
* German data concern the year 2019.

 

FIGURE 4: NUMBER OF DRY CARGO VESSELS PER RHINE COUNTRY*


Source: CCNR based on national data
* German fleet data were not yet available for 2020.

 

  • The average loading capacity or deadweight of a vessel in the Rhine fleet was around 1,500 tonnes in 2020, compared to 1,090 tonnes in 2005. The total loading capacity of the fleet has remained rather constant since 2008 and amounted to 10.5 million tonnes in 2020.
  • Small vessels are mostly defined as vessels with a loading capacity of up to 1,500 tonnes. According to this definition, the Belgian, Dutch, French and German fleets were composed in 202016 as follows:

 

TABLE 2: COMPOSITION OF DRY CARGO FLEET (SELF-PROPELLED VESSELS AND BARGES) PER RHINE COUNTRY

FleetSmall vessels (≤ 1,500 t)All dry cargo vesselsShare of small vessels
Dutch fleet1.7963.4340.52
German fleet *1.0971.5250.72
French fleet7619770.78
Belgian fleet5379780.55

Sources: CBS/Rijkswaterstaat, German Waterway Administration, ITB / Belgian Waterway Administration, VNF
* German data for 2019

 

  • It is often cited that the number of small vessels in the inland navigation sector is decreasing. Long-term data confirm this hypothesis, as is shown in the next figure. Within the Dutch fleet, the number of vessels with a deadweight of up to 1,500 tonnes reduced from 2,395 in 2008 to 1,796 in 2020. This represents a reduction of 25%, which means that one out of four Dutch small vessels that were transporting cargo in 2008, were no longer active in 2020.

 

FIGURE 5: NUMBER OF DRY CARGO VESSELS IN THE DUTCH FLEET PER DEADWEIGHT CLASS


Sources: CBS based on Rijkswaterstaat, CCNR analysis
 
 
LIQUID CARGO FLEET IN RHINE COUNTRIES
 

  • The share of the Dutch fleet within all liquid cargo vessels in Rhine countries is 52%. Switzerland and Luxembourg have relatively high numbers of tanker vessels.
  • The liquid cargo fleet can be regarded as a young fleet, compared to the dry cargo fleet.17 In the Swiss fleet of tanker vessels, for example, 30 out of 42 vessels have been built since the year 2000 (share of 71%). In the Belgian tanker fleet, this is the case for 69% of all tanker vessels, and in the German fleet for 59% of all tanker vessels. The reason for this age structure is the transition from single hull to double hull vessels, which led to high investments in new vessels, and a phasing out of older vessels.
  • From a quantitative perspective, the total number of tanker vessels has decreased since 2012, as the number of vessels being phased out was higher than the number of new double hull vessels entering the market.

 

FIGURE 6: NUMBER OF LIQUID CARGO VESSELS IN RHINE COUNTRIES IN 2020*


Source: CCNR based on national data
* German data are for 2019.

 

FIGURE 7: NUMBER OF ALL LIQUID CARGO VESSELS PER RHINE COUNTRY*


Source: CCNR based on national data
* German fleet data were not yet available for 2020.

 

  • By January 2021, the total number of 1,433 liquid cargo vessels in Rhine countries comprised 1,199 ADN type tankers, according to the European Barge Inspection scheme EBIS.18 Of these vessels, 1,170 were double hull tankers and 29 were single hull tankers. The difference between the total number of tanker vessels and the ADN type tankers is explained by the existence of liquid cargo vessels, which do not carry dangerous goods (e.g. vegetable oil tankers, cement tankers or ships which provide potable water for seagoing vessels in seaports).
  • The EBIS database also indicates that there were ten LNG dual fuel tanker barges sailing on European waterways at the beginning of 2021, compared to nine one year earlier.

 

EVOLUTION OF THE DANUBE FLEET AND THE CARGO FLEET IN OTHER COUNTRIES

 
DRY CARGO FLEET IN THE DANUBE REGION
 

  • According to the statistics of the Danube Commission (with clarification based on surveys of shipping companies in the DC Member States), by the end of 2017,19 there were around 400 push boats, 242 tugs, 409 self-propelled dry cargo vessels, and circa 2,100 dry cargo barges in the Danube fleet. More than 70% of the total transport volume is carried by pushed convoys, whose composition is set out in the table below, depending on the waterway class and shipping conditions.

 

TABLE 3: TYPE OF DRY CARGO TRANSPORT ON THE DANUBE (SHARE OF TOTAL TRANSPORT IN %)

Push boat + 7-9 pushed barges (lighters)40-42%
Push boat + 6 lighters20-23%
Push boat + 4 lighters12-14%

Source: Danube Commission market observation
 

  • The total Danube fleet of dry cargo vessels has become smaller since 2005. However, from the year 2014 onwards, the decreasing trend came to a halt, and the fleet size has now stabilised. The Romanian dry cargo fleet is the largest in the Danube area with a share of around 48% of all dry cargo vessels. Its size is increasing.

 
LIQUID CARGO FLEET IN THE DANUBE REGION
 

  • According to the statistics of the Danube Commission (with clarification based on surveys of shipping companies in the DC Member States), by the end of 2017, there were 74 self-propelled tanker vessels and 128 tanker barges, with a total cargo capacity of around 0.22 million tonnes.20

 
CARGO FLEET IN OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
 

  • Eurostat offers statistics about the fleets of inland vessels in Poland, the Czech Republic, Finland and Lithuania. Data for Italy are influenced by two structural breaks. The latest available data for Italy (2018) indicate 240 self-propelled vessels, 164 barges, and 332 push boats and tugs.
  • In Poland the number of self-propelled vessels and barges decreased in recent years, from 607 in 2016 to 482 in 2019. The size of the Polish push and tugboat fleet has also reduced in recent years (2017: 219 push and tugboats, 2019: 179 push and tugboats).

 

NEW VESSEL CONSTRUCTION

 

  • In 2020, the demand for newly built vessels showed upward trends. Compared to the year 2019, the newbuilding rate for dry cargo vessels increased by seven units. The number of newly built tanker vessels increased by 14 units (40 in 2019; 54 in 2020). A strong increase in the newly built capacity of liquid cargo vessels can be noted.
  • The majority of the new dry cargo vessels entering the market in 2020 are registered in the Netherlands (14 out of 27), followed by Belgium with seven, and three each for Germany and France.

 

FIGURE 8: NEW DRY CARGO VESSELS COMING ON THE MARKET PER COUNTRY OF REGISTER (NUMBERS, 2011-2020)


Source: IVR
 

  • A high share of newly built dry cargo vessels had a loading capacity of over 3,000 tonnes. Indeed, 10 out of 27 vessels fall in the category of 3000-4000 tonnes. The average capacity of newly built dry cargo vessels amounts to 2,474 tonnes for 2020 whereas the value for 2019 equals 3,256 tonnes.

 

TABLE 4: NEWLY BUILT DRY CARGO VESSELS ACCORDING TO LOADING CAPACITY

Loading capacity2017201820192020
0 < 1,000 t4213
1,000-2,000 t3739
2,000-3,000 t9565
3,000-4,000 t123710
> 4,000 t1030
Total29172027

Source: IVR. Note that for 2 newly built vessels the deadweight was partly estimated due to initially missing values.
 

TABLE 5: NEWLY BUILT DRY CARGO VESSELS IN 2020 BY LENGTH

LengthNumber of vessels
<= 55 metre3
55 to < 70 metres0
70 to < 86 metres8
86 to 110 metres16
> 110 metres0
Total27

Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis
 

  • According to the IVR database, 54 new tanker vessels entered the market in 2020. In addition to the 25 new vessels registered in the Netherlands, 11 were registered in Germany, 11 in Belgium, 4 in Luxembourg and 2 in Switzerland.

 

FIGURE 9: NEW TANKER VESSELS COMING ON THE MARKET PER COUNTRY OF REGISTER (NUMBERS, 2011-2020)


Source: IVR
 

  • The most common loading capacity of the new tanker vessels is in the category 2000-3000 tonnes with 17 new tanker vessels in 2020. The category 3000 to 4000 tonnes is second in line with 11 newly built vessels. Compared to the newly built tanker vessels in 2019 it can be observed that demand for larger loading capacities increased in 2020. The average loading capacity for new tanker vessels amounts to 3,793 tonnes in 2020 and 3,103 tonnes in 2019.

 

TABLE 6: NEWLY BUILT TANKER VESSELS ACCORDING TO LOADING CAPACITY

Loading capacity2017201820192020
0 < 1,000 t1210
1,000-2,000 t1012159
2,000-3,000 t1471121
3,000-4,000 t23510
> 4,000 t14814
Total28284054

Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis. Note that for 1 newly built vessel the deadweight was partly estimated due to an initially missing value.
 

TABLE 7: NEWLY BUILT TANKER VESSELS IN 2020 BY LENGTH

LengthNumber of vessels
<= 55 metre0
55 to < 70 metres0
70 to < 86 metres6
86 to 110 metres34
> 110 metres14
Total54

Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis
 

  • In the category of push and tugboats, only two new builds were registered in the Netherlands. One of them is the push boat PIETER VAN DER WEES and the second is the TENACIOUS.
  • Figure 10 illustrates the new loading capacity entering the market by year and by dry and liquid cargo vessels. After a long decline following the financial crisis, both dry and liquid new capacity show an increase in recent years. For the liquid cargo capacity, a greater increase in newbuilding activity is noted which can be explained by more favourable transport demand trends in the liquid cargo sector, compared to the dry cargo sector.

 

FIGURE 10: NEW CAPACITY COMING ON THE MARKET FOR DRY AND LIQUID CARGO (LOADING CAPACITY IN 1,000 TONNES)


Source: IVR
 

AGE STRUCTURE OF THE RHINE FLEET (IVR)21

 

  • According to the IVR database, the Netherlands holds the largest share of the Rhine fleet in almost every vessel type category.

 
Push and tugboats
 

  • Push boats and tugs were, for the most part, constructed in the 20th century, with the Netherlands as a frontrunner. In the 21st century, the Netherlands alone registered 70 out of 102 new push and tugboats.
  • Around 69% (1,144 out of a total of 1,649)22 of the entire push and tugboats of the Rhine fleet are registered in the Netherlands, followed by a share of 19% for Germany and 9% for Belgium.

 
Tanker vessels
 

  • Around 53% of the entire tanker fleet in Rhine countries are registered in the Netherlands, out of which 47% were built in the 20th century and the remaining 53% in the 21st century. It is noted that this share of 53% for the Dutch fleet matches almost exactly the share according to the national fleet databases, where the share of the Dutch fleet within all Rhine tanker vessels is 52%.
  • Germany as second in line accounts for 25% of the tanker vessels with approximately 45% built in the 20th century and 55% built in the 21st century (according to the national fleet database, this last-mentioned share is 59%, see part 2).
  • Luxembourg, which holds around 5% of the tanker vessels, has built 80% of its fleet since the beginning of this century.
  • Thus, a relatively new tanker fleet in Rhine countries can be noted, with two peaks in newbuilding activity over the last 20 years (a first around the time of the financial crisis (2008-2009) and a second, smaller one, in the last years 2019/20).

 
Dry cargo
 

  • The dry cargo fleet remains the oldest one within all categories, with 84% of the fleet being built in the 20th century and 16% in the 21st century.
  • Of the dry cargo fleet 51% are registered in the Netherlands. Germany and Belgium account for 22% and 16%, respectively. These figures, based on the IVR database, match approximately the shares that emerge from national fleet databases, according to which 49% of the dry cargo fleet in Rhine countries are registered in the Netherlands, 22% in Germany, and 14% in Belgium.
  • In France, 98% of the dry cargo vessels were constructed before the 21st century, making it the oldest fleet of all Rhine countries. In Switzerland and the Netherlands, the share adds up to 76%.

 
Passenger fleet
 

  • The total number of passenger vessels in Rhine countries amounts to 2,213 vessels, out of which 71% entered the market before 2000.
  • Frontrunners in this category remain the Netherlands and Germany with respectively 53% and 33% of all vessels. Switzerland is third with a share of 9%, representing around 200 passenger vessels.

 

FIGURE 11: COMMISSIONING ACTIVITY FOR THE RHINE FLEET OVER TIME (NUMBER OF INLAND VESSELS)


Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis. Furthermore, 60 dry cargo vessels, 50 passenger vessels, 30 push/tug vessels and 2 tank cargo vessels have an unknown year of construction.
 

CAPACITY MONITORING

 

  • The average utilisation rate of the fleet is calculated with a model that takes into account transport demand per goods segment in Rhine countries (the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland), the loading capacity of the fleet in Rhine countries (differentiated according to size categories) and water levels on the Rhine at the gauge stations of Maxau, Kaub, Cologne and Duisburg. The rate of capacity utilisation is defined as the ratio of the needed fleet capacity (derived fleet demand, based on transport demand) and the available fleet according to Rhine fleet statistics presented in this chapter.

 
DRY CARGO VESSELS
 

  • In 2020, the capacity utilisation rate of dry cargo vessels in western Europe decreased for vessels with a deadweight of 1,000 tonnes or more. This was related to the drop in demand as a result of the Covid crisis. The accompanying graph shows the development of capacity utilisation for the various fleet segments. For vessels with a deadweight of less than 1,000 tonnes, the degree of capacity utilisation remained on a higher level than for the other fleet segments.

 

FIGURE 12: CAPACITY UTILISATION FOR THE DRY CARGO FLEET IN RHINE COUNTRIES (PER FLEET SEGMENT)


Source: Panteia analysis based on data provided by CCNR
 

  • This can be explained by the fact that the number of small vessels is decreasing due to more stringent requirements for vessels and a lack of new construction. At the same time, small vessels occupy a relatively large market share within national inland waterway transport, which was least affected by the Covid crisis. In the Netherlands, the domestic or national cargo volume increased by half a percent (+ 1 million tonnes). In Belgium, the domestic volume increased by 7% (+2 million tonnes). This was offset by a decrease in Germany of -4% (-2 million tonnes) and in France (-15%, -5 million tonnes). Overall, therefore, domestic volumes decreased by about four million tonnes.
  • International transport – especially on the Rhine – was hit much harder. In the Netherlands, there was a 5% drop in international transport (or 10 million tonnes); in Germany, there was a loss of approximately 8% (-12 million tonnes). The decline was particularly noticeable in steel industries and affected both the supply of raw materials and the delivery of semi-finished products.
  • In view of the structural trends in the dry cargo sector, it can be concluded that there is still overcapacity. This overcapacity is particularly noticeable in the largest vessels category. According to the CCNR estimation, this concerns 200 ships larger than 2,000 tonnes.

 
LIQUID CARGO VESSELS
 

  • In 2020, the capacity utilisation rate fell sharply from 75% in 2019 down to 68%. The decrease took place for vessels larger than 1,000 tonnes; for smaller tanker vessels (share of 19% within the tanker fleet in Rhine countries), the use in specific market segments (cement tankers and edible oils) as well as the reduction of the number of vessels, are causing the utilisation rate to increase further.

 

FIGURE 13: CAPACITY UTILISATION FOR THE LIQUID CARGO FLEET IN RHINE COUNTRIES (PER FLEET SEGMENT)


Source: Panteia analysis based on data provided by CCNR
 

  • Larger vessels (> 1,000 tonnes) experienced a much lower utilisation rate due to Covid and the resulting drop in demand, particularly for motor fuels (paraffin, petrol and diesel). It should be noted that in the first months of the Covid crisis, there was still an increase in demand for tanker barging. Products that were refined in Germany and Switzerland had to be transported to the seaports due to a drop in demand in the national markets (less activity in road transport, therefore less fuel demand). Without this temporary peak demand, the decline in capacity utilisation would have been even greater. Another factor was that tanker barging in 2020 was helped by critical water conditions on the Upper Rhine, which meant that maximum fleet capacities could not be used. This supported the level of the demand/supply ratio and therefore increased the degree of fleet utilisation to some extent.
  • The drop in demand stood in contrast to an increase in carrying capacity. The loading capacity of the tanker fleet in western Europe grew by 2.6% in 2020 (compared to a reduction by 1.6% of dry cargo capacity). This growth took place almost exclusively in the segment of large vessels; the market segments smaller than 1,000 tonnes and between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes saw a reduction in capacity.
  • For 2020, the overcapacity in the tanker barging sector is estimated to amount to 133 vessels. For 2021, in particular, a slightly increased demand due to relaxations in the Covid measures is expected, but this will not yet lead to a structural improvement in market conditions. In the longer term, overcapacity seems to be decreasing, but the energy transition will also require adjustments from tanker barging.