The Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) is pleased to present the 2021 edition of the European Inland Navigation Market Observation report, which analyses the main developments in European inland navigation in 2020. This year again, I would like to thank the European Commission for their valuable collaboration and support in our market observation activities.

In line with its objective of providing informed decision-making support for all stakeholders involved in inland navigation, this report covers a wide range of subjects, including macroeconomic conditions, trend developments related to goods segments and river basins, inland waterway transport in ports, operating conditions related to water levels and freight rates, the structure and evolution of the fleet of inland vessels, data on employment, the number of companies and the level of turnover, as well as data on river cruises. In addition to a section on the short and long-term macroeconomic outlook for the main inland navigation market segments, this year’s report also includes a statistical annex, a valuable tool for data analysis.

Unfortunately, this year’s report cannot avoid a particular emphasis on the dramatic and still ongoing Covid pandemic. Although the current vaccination campaigns offer some hope for the future, the health emergency caused by the coronavirus has weighed heavily on the economic indicators for 2020 and has not spared inland navigation. The fall in GDP in the EU in 2020 was indeed higher than during the financial crisis of 2009. In addition, delays in vaccination rollouts as well as threats of new Covid variants are likely to create additional uncertainties in all sectors of our economy. While the recovery path is still uncertain, GDP forecasts for 2021 and 2022 point to a recovery with expected growth rates of 4.4% in 2021 and 4.0% in 2022.

Both freight and passenger transport were affected by the pandemic and the ensuing policy actions and health measures. The damage reported by the entire inland waterway passenger transport industry was particularly severe, not only on the demand side but also on the fleet and supply side. My dearest wish is, of course, for a rapid and complete recovery of the whole sector, with the active support of all actors involved in inland waterway transport.

As in the past, the present work that you are about to consult is the result of intense collaboration with many actors, both public and private. As in previous years, we have been able to use statistical data and market information of the Danube, Moselle and Sava Commissions for their specific catchment areas. Equally important was our cooperation with Eurostat and national statistical offices, ports, national and regional waterway administrations as well as professional organisations, in particular the European Barge Union (EBU), the European Skippers’ Organisation (ESO) and the Corporation of Inland Tanker Barge Owners (CITBO). It is only thanks to this fruitful cooperation with all stakeholders and their valuable input and expertise that we can collect all relevant data for our sector on a European scale, in a timely and efficient manner, for our annual report.

Last but not least, on the following page you will also find a message from my counterpart at the Danube Commission, Mr Manfred Seitz, with whom we continue and intensify our cooperation. The said Danube Commission sends us every year a detailed market report with very valuable data and information about freight and passenger transport on the different sections of the Danube. We are very grateful to the Commission for this annual contribution. It is therefore a great pleasure to share the foreword of the new annual report with its Director General.

In the hope that the pandemic and its continued strain on economies will soon be behind us, and that our European inland waterway transport sector will soon be thriving again, I wish you a good read of the annual report.


Bruno Georges
CCNR Secretary General


It is an honour for me to write a short foreword for the Market Observation Report 2021, which is published by the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) as a joint project with the European Commission for the European Inland Navigation sector.

The cooperation between the Danube Commission (DC) and the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) relating to market observation has followed a systematic approach since the signing of an administrative agreement in 2015 between the DC and the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission. Based on this agreement, a common methodology for the market observation publication was developed between the Secretariats in 2017 and has since further evolved during bilateral meetings.

The Secretariat of the DC transmits to the CCNR four reports per year providing a detailed insight into the structure and development of the IWT market in the Danube region and thus contributes to the overall European market observation coordinated by the CCNR.

The DC attaches great importance to the task of market observation with the aim of monitoring in a timely manner the economic activities of the Danube shipping sector in relation to the overall economic development of the Danube region, the competitive position of the sector in relation to the other transport modes and by paying special attention to the strong inter-relationship of fairway conditions and market performance. Our quarterly reports and the consolidated annual report are published on the website of the Danube Commission and are welcomed by the IWT sector and the public administrations alike as important inputs for commercial activities and for policy making.

Since mid-March 2020, the freight transport market on the Danube was strongly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, thus resulting in economic decline in all Danube states and, respectively, in a drop in supply and demand in the main segments of the Danube transport market. The largest losses concern the passenger transport sector, keeping in mind that in 2019 record traffic volumes were achieved in both the Upper Danube and in the Danube delta with over 190 cabin cruise vessels operating on the Danube.
The freight transport market in 2021 and beyond is likely to be influenced by existing quotas for steel import in EU countries, as well as by the expected introduction of a carbon border tax on the import of metallurgical, chemical, petrol and petroleum products to the EU.

As in 2020, a certain stability in freight transport on the Danube can be ensured in 2021, thanks to grain transport, primarily from the ports on the Middle Danube to the Danube seaports, and especially Constanƫa. Initial grain stocks from the 2020 harvest in the Danube countries, and satisfactory volumes of the 2021 harvest should allow this balance to be realised. Transport of animal fodder and chemical products (fertilizers), as well as petroleum products, are expected to remain stable.

Forecasts for the passenger transport sector on the Danube refer to the possible resumption of its main activity in 2022. This will, first and foremost, depend on the national restrictions linked to the pandemic. At the same time, with the easing of national and local restrictions, separate routes both on cruise and local transport lines could be resumed to a certain level in 2021.

Considering the challenges faced by the inland waterway transport sector with the need to deliver on the objectives of the European Green Deal and the Sustainable & Smart Mobility Strategy, comprehensive and accurate information on the European inland waterway transport sector will become even more important and will be a prerequisite to achieve the ambitious goal of shifting significantly more freight to inland waterways. Thus, I consider the joint report on Market Observation to be a cornerstone for successful future policy measures in line with the Inland Waterway Transport Action Plan NAIADES 2021-2027.

The Secretariat of the Danube Commission appreciates the cooperation with the CCNR in the field of market observation as a most successful and complementary initiative, both in terms of the quality of the market analysis and the forecasting of its development, which certainly will receive further strong support from the Danube Commission.


Manfred Seitz
Director General of the Secretariat