• In 2021, the total number of vessels in the Rhine countries amounted to 10,256 units: 7,445 dry cargo vessels, 1,453 liquid cargo vessels, 1,358 push and tugboats. Small vessels with a deadweight of up to 1,500 tonnes represent around 41% of the Dutch dry cargo fleet, 75% of the French and German dry cargo fleet, and 53% of the Belgian dry cargo fleet. The number of small vessels has followed a decreasing trend over the last ten years.
• Regarding newbuilding activities, a sizeable difference can be observed in the new building trends between the liquid cargo and the dry cargo sector. Newbuilding rates in liquid cargo followed a recovery path between 2016 and 2020.
• Newbuilding activity in the dry cargo sector has remained on a much lower level compared to liquid cargo since 2016, with newbuilding figures on a relative stagnation orientated pathway.

 

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 & tugsTotal number of vessels
    Rhine fleet7,4451,4531,35810,256
    Danube fleet2,6522046423,498
    Other countries*1,56126 #7272,314
    Total number of vessels11,6581,6832,72716,068

    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. Regarding the number of dry and liquid cargo vessels (Figure 1), the data are the latest available and refer to 2021 for Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, to 2020 for Germany, and to 2019 for all other countries, except for Italy (2018), the UK (2018) and Serbia (2017).

 

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

    Chart by Visualizer

    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

    Chart by Visualizer

    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 section 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.
  • Data used for the Dutch fleet contain the inland vessels that are registered in the Netherlands and which were active there in 2021.44 Fleet data for other Rhine countries concern also predominantly active vessels and is delivered by the Belgian, German, French, and Swiss Waterway Administration, as well as from the vessel register of Luxembourg. Based on 2021 data for all Rhine countries except for Germany, the total number of dry cargo vessels registered was around 7,444 in 2021, compared to 6,942 in 2020 and 7,012 in 2019.

 

    FIGURE 3: NUMBER OF DRY CARGO VESSELS IN RHINE COUNTRIES IN 2021 *

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: CCNR based on national data (see Table 1)
    * German data refers to the year 2020.

     

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

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: CCNR based on national data
    * German fleet data were not yet available for 2021.

 

  • 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, German and Swiss fleets are composed as follows:

 

    TABLE 2: COMPOSITION OF DRY CARGO FLEET (SELF-PROPELLED VESSELS AND BARGES) PER RHINE COUNTRY IN 2020/2021 *

    FleetSmall vessels (≤ 1,500 t)All dry cargo vesselsShare of small vessels based on number
    Dutch fleet1,7873,4741.1%
    German fleet 1,5072,00475.2%
    French fleet74999375.4%
    Belgian fleet51094953.8%
    Swiss fleet4850.0%

    Sources: CBS/Rijkswaterstaat, German Waterway Administration, ITB, VNF
    * German data is for 2020, all other data for 2021.

 

  • It is often cited that the number of small vessels in the inland navigation sector is decreasing. Long-term data tend to confirm this hypothesis, as is shown in the next figures.

 

    FIGURES 5, 6, 7, 8: NUMBER OF DRY CARGO VESSELS IN THE DUTCH, GERMAN, FRENCH AND BELGIAN FLEET – NUMBER OF SMALL VESSELS (≤ 1500 t) AND LARGER VESSELS (> 1500 t)

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    Sources: CCNR analysis based on CBS/Rijkswaterstaat, ITB, WSV

 

  • The number of small Dutch dry cargo vessels decreased by 467 units between 2010 and 2021 which represents a reduction of 20.7%.
  • The number of small German dry cargo vessels decreased by 251 units between 2010 and 2020 which represents a reduction of 14.3%.
  • The number of small French dry cargo vessels decreased by 323 units between 2010 and 2021 which represents a reduction of 30.1%.
  • The number of small Belgian dry cargo vessels decreased by 221 units between 2010 and 2021 which represents a reduction of 30.2%.
  • Small vessels are needed to transport grain and other agricultural products, so that a reduction in their number creates problems and bottlenecks. A shift of grain volumes from inland navigation towards road transport seems to be one possible outcome. This stands in opposition to the overall aim of shifting transport volumes from road transport to waterborne transport.

 

    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. 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 9: NUMBER OF LIQUID CARGO VESSELS IN RHINE COUNTRIES IN 2021 *

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: CCNR based on national data
    * German data are for 2020.

     

    FIGURE 10: NUMBER OF ALL LIQUID CARGO VESSELS PER RHINE COUNTRY *

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: CCNR based on national data
    * German fleet data were not yet available for 2021.

 

EVOLUTION OF THE DANUBE FLEET

 

    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 2017,45 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 diminished 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.46

 

NEW VESSEL CONSTRUCTION47

 

  • Compared to the year 2020, the number of new dry cargo vessels decreased by nine units whereas the number of newly built tanker vessels increased by four units (40 in 2019, 54 in 2020 and 58 in 2021). 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 2021 are registered in the Netherlands (13 out of 18), followed by Belgium with five new vessels.

    FIGURE 11: NEW DRY CARGO VESSELS COMING ON THE MARKET PER COUNTRY OF REGISTER (NUMBERS, 2011-2021)

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: IVR
  • Regarding the analysis according to loading capacity in newly built dry cargo vessels, the highest share with nine units is dedicated to the category of 3,000-4,000 tonnes followed by the category below with 2,000-3,000 tonnes. The average capacity of newly built dry cargo vessels amounted to 2,488 tonnes in 2021.

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

    Loading capacity20172018201920202021
    0 < 1,000 t42134
    1,000-2,000 t37390
    2,000-3,000 t95655
    3,000-4,000 t1237109
    > 4,000 t10300
    Total2917202718

    Source: IVR. Note that for 1 newly built vessel the deadweight was partly estimated due to initially missing values.
     

    TABLE 5: NEWLY BUILT DRY CARGO VESSELS IN 2021 BY LENGTH

    LengthNumber of vessels
    <= 55 metre4
    55 to < 70 metres0
    70 to < 86 metres3
    86 to 110 metres10
    > 110 metres1
    Total18

    Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis
  • According to the IVR database, 58 new tanker vessels entered the market in 2021, four more than in 2020. After the 32 new vessels registered in the Netherlands, nine were registered in Germany, eight in Belgium, five in Luxembourg and four in Switzerland.

 

    FIGURE 12: NEW TANKER VESSELS COMING ON THE MARKET PER COUNTRY OF REGISTER (NUMBERS, 2011-2021)

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: IVR
  • The most common loading capacity of the new tanker vessels is in the category 2000-3000 tonnes with 18 new tanker vessels in 2021. The category 3000 to 4000 tonnes is second in line, with 15 newly built vessels. Compared to the newly built tanker vessels in 2020, it can be observed that demand for larger loading capacities increased in 2021. However, the overall average loading capacity slightly reduced. The average loading capacity for new tanker vessels amounted to 3,550 in 2021, 3,793 tonnes in 2020 and 3,103 tonnes in 2019.

 

    TABLE 6: NEWLY BUILT TANKER VESSELS ACCORDING TO LOADING CAPACITY

    Loading capacity20172018201920202021
    0 < 1,000 t12100
    1,000-2,000 t101215913
    2,000-3,000 t147112118
    3,000-4,000 t2351015
    > 4,000 t1481412
    Total2828405458

    Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis. Note that for 4 newly built vessels the deadweight was partly estimated due to an initially missing value.
     

    TABLE 7: NEWLY BUILT TANKER VESSELS IN 2021 BY LENGTH

    LengthNumber of vessels
    <= 55 metre0
    55 to < 70 metres0
    70 to < 86 metres12
    86 to 110 metres27
    > 110 metres19
    Total58

    Sources: IVR, CCNR analysis
  • In the category of push boats and tugs, seven newbuilds came on the market. Six new push boats (three in Luxembourg, two in Germany and one in the Netherlands) and one tugboat registered in the Netherlands.
  • Figure 13 illustrates the new loading capacity entering the market by year and for dry and liquid cargo vessels. After a long decline following the financial crisis, new dry and liquid capacity showed an increase in recent years. For liquid cargo vessels, this increase in newbuilding activity was certainly more significant than for dry cargo vessels. However, as the drop in the newbuilding rate in 2020 and 2021 indicates, transport demand conditions deteriorated for one part of liquid cargo (mineral oil products) in the wake of the pandemic.

 

    FIGURE 13: NEW CAPACITY COMING ON THE MARKET FOR DRY AND LIQUID CARGO (LOADING CAPACITY IN 1,000 TONNES)

    Chart by Visualizer

    Source: IVR

 

AGE STRUCTURE OF THE RHINE FLEET48

 

  • Around 83.2% of the dry cargo fleet was constructed in the 20th century whereas the respective share for the tanker fleet amounts to 41.6%.

 

    Tank Cargo
     
    Year of constructionNumber of vesselsShare in %
    2000 to 20211,04358.3
    1900 to 199974441.6
    1875 to 189920.1

    Source: IVR, CCNR analysis
     
    Dry Cargo
     
    Year of constructionNumber of vesselsShare in %
    2000 to 20211,4216.6
    1900 to 19997,13883.2
    1875 to 1899240.3

    Source: IVR, CCNR analysis

 

  • Regarding the passenger fleet, a distinction is made between passenger ferries and passenger day trip vessels. The river cruise vessels are analysed separately in chapter 8. Most passenger ferries and passenger day trip vessels were built in the 20th century. The same holds also for the push boats and tugs with a remarkable share of 92.2% built between 1900 and 1999.

 

    Passenger Ferries
     
    Year of constructionNumber of vesselsShare in %
    2000 to 20216237.8
    1900 to 199910262.2
    1875 to 189900

    Source: IVR, CCNR analysis
     
    Passenger Day Trip49
     
    Year of constructionNumber of vesselsShare in %
    2000 to 202116913.6
    1900 to 19991,05184.5
    1875 to 1899241.9

    Source: IVR, CCNR analysis
     
    Push and Tug
     
    Year of constructionNumber of vesselsShare in %
    2000 to 20211307.4
    1900 to 19991,62792.2
    1875 to 189980.5

    Source: IVR, CCNR analysis

 

  • According to the IVR database, the Netherlands holds the largest vessel numbers within the Rhine fleet in almost every vessel category, followed by Germany.

 

    FIGURE 14: COMMISSIONING YEARS FOR THE RHINE FLEET OVER TIME (NUMBER OF INLAND VESSELS)

    Chart by Visualizer

    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. The database of IVR accounts for active vessels but might also include some inactive vessels, in particular those commissioned in earlier years.

 

CAPACITY MONITORING

    DRY CARGO VESSELS

    • The year 2021 was characterised by a recovery after the pandemic crisis of 2020. In particular, the international transport of dry bulk enjoyed a boost. This led to better capacity utilisation of the larger vessels. For dry cargo the average utilisation rate was 81% in 2021. This is significantly higher than in 2020 (76%) and comparable to the years 2015 and 2016.
    • The signs that the fleet capacity is currently too tight to cope with low water periods have been noted. In 2022, the low water period that built up until mid-July,50 and the further increase in coal demand and coal transport, as well as the transfer of dry cargo vessels from the Rhine region to eastern Europe (where they help transport grain from Ukraine), is expected to lead to a further strong increase in capacity utilisation for dry cargo vessels. However, it must also be recognised that this increase in transport demand, especially related to coal transports, is temporary.
    •  

      FIGURE 15: CAPACITY UTILISATION FOR THE DRY CARGO FLEET IN RHINE COUNTRIES (PER VESSEL SIZE CLASSES)

      Chart by Visualizer

      Source: Panteia analysis based on data provided by CCNR
       

    • Compared to 2020, there were no more restrictions in the operating times of locks and moveable bridges. In the first phase of the Covid-19 crisis, the operation of locks on, for example, the Upper Rhine and Moselle was restricted, and the waterway authorities of the rivers and canals in the Netherlands and Belgium also limited the passage possibilities. In 2021, the service was fully restored and in many cases passage was possible on 24 hours per day during the whole week.
    • In the dry bulk segment transport demand recovered from the Covid-19 crisis. The transport of coal and ores increased very strongly, and not only because of increased production and restocking of the blast furnaces of the steel industry in the Ruhr area. Germany also was obliged to look for alternative energy sources due to the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. As a result, additional steam coal was transported to the power plants. This led to a high demand for large (> 2,000 tonnes) inland vessels. The increased production at the blast furnaces also led to more transport of metal products by inland shipping. With regards to the transport of agricultural products, demand was still lagging behind the pre-pandemic levels, particularly due to the still limited opening hours.
    • Water conditions in 2021 were more favourable than in 2020, especially in the period from May to September. As a result, for a large part of the year, inland vessels were able to take on more cargo than in the previous year. In relative terms, this meant that more transport capacity was available to accommodate the additional demand for cargo.
    • Fleet capacity increased in 2021. In particular, the number of large vessels (> 2,000 tonnes) increased sharply. The number of small and medium-sized vessels decreased, which is a trend that is expected to continue. In the case of the smallest vessels, it is noticeable that the supply of cargo is decreasing at about the same rate as vessel capacity. As a result, the overall utilisation rate remains the same in this particular fleet segment.

     

    LIQUID CARGO VESSELS

    • For tanker shipping, the average utilisation of the fleet in 2021 has remained the same as in the previous year. Utilisation is still at 68%. It should be noted that there has been an increase in the utilisation of small (< 1,000 tonnes) and medium-sized (1,000 to 2,000 tonnes) vessels, and a decrease in the utilisation of larger vessels. There are various reasons for this development: - Only very limited growth in the cargo supply. Unlike the dry cargo market, this market was not yet able to recover from the Covid-19 crisis. Although volumes grew a little, the demand, especially for the transport of fuels such as petrol, diesel and kerosene, was still considerably lower than in 2019 as a result of people working from home. - More favourable water conditions. For a large part of 2021, it was possible to sail on the Rhine without restrictions. This was different from 2020, when from spring to the end of the year there were almost always water level restrictions which reduced loading capacity. In 2021, water conditions were restricted only in the months of October and November. As a result, tankers were able to carry more cargo on average and this had a dampening effect on the capacity utilisation. - Growth in fleet capacity. Many new tankers entered service in 2021. These were almost exclusively tankers with a cargo capacity of 2,000 tonnes or more. As a result, there was growth in the tanker fleet as a whole grew.
    •  

      FIGURE 16: CAPACITY UTILISATION FOR THE LIQUID CARGO FLEET IN RHINE COUNTRIES (PER VESSEL SIZE CLASSES)

      Chart by Visualizer

      Source: Panteia analysis based on data provided by CCNR
       

    • Specifically for the sub-segments, there is full capacity utilisation of the small and medium-sized tankers. In almost all cases, these are highly specialised tankers that are active in the transport of, for example, cement or edible oils. In other cases, they are very specifically built for a single client and therefore have an optimal usage. In this market, there is probably undercapacity and a disruption such as prolonged low water levels will cause production losses or modal shift. For the larger tankers, there is enough shipping capacity available, even if there is another period of low water, as in 2018.