It is an honour for me to introduce for the first time the Annual Market Observation report of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR). Building on several years of fruitful cooperation, this latest edition published in 2022 is again the result of close collaboration with the European Commission.

The CCNR Market Observation reports enable the monitoring on a yearly basis of the European inland navigation market situation as well as its evolution and structural development. They also provide an important basis for decision-making at various levels, for the benefit of European inland waterway transport (IWT). This report includes information regarding macroeconomic conditions, commodity prices, trend developments related to goods segments and river basins, IWT in ports, operating conditions related to water levels and freight rates, the fleet of inland vessels, employment, passenger transport and an outlook for main inland navigation market segments.

This year’s report also includes a new chapter on national investments in inland waterway transport infrastructure. Indeed, to ensure a year-round navigability, the state of the IWT network must enable efficient, reliable and safe navigation for users by ensuring minimum waterway parameters and levels of service. Available yearly data relating to investment and maintenance spending for Rhine and Danube countries will from now on be reported in this annual report. It should however be highlighted that the data presented do not allow the comparison of trends in maintenance and investment spendings between different countries due to several factors. For instance, infrastructure spending can vary greatly from one country to another depending on the length and nature of the waterways as well as the number of constructions on these waterways.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to this report and for their relentless cooperation: the Danube, Moselle and Sava Commissions, 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). I am also very pleased to share the foreword with Mr Godfried Smit, Secretary General of the European Shippers’ Council (ESC).

Unfortunately, and for the second year in a row, this year’s report points to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, while the inland navigation freight transport experienced a growth in 2021 compared to 2020 in almost all its market segments, transport performance did not reach the pre-pandemic value. The passenger transport sector is also still suffering from the aftermath of the pandemic characterised by a rather low activity on the demand side and a low occupancy rate of vessels, which also slowed down the shipbuilding activity for river cruises. Even though a certain recovery of cruise vessel movements in 2021 can be observed, river cruise transit figures remain far below the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

Last but not least, I would like to express my sincere support to Ukraine and its citizens, as well as those working in the inland navigation sector who demonstrate their resilience and courage. The Russian war of aggression towards Ukraine is not without consequences for our sector, both on the freight and passenger market segments.
In spite of these difficult circumstances, I would like to wish you a pleasant read.


Lucia Luijten
Secretary General
Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR)


This report formally looks back over 2021, but it would not be appropriate to avoid mentioning the fact that, for the first time, this millennium has been confronted with war. This war is a tragedy for many innocent people who are faced with its devastating consequences. For this reason, writing this foreword is not business as usual. If we look at the economic consequences of the war, inland shipping has an important role to play in transporting liquid gas.

Supply chains in general have already been confronted with many challenges over the last years. These have been most visible in the deep-sea maritime sector but have not affected the entire supply chain. The changing behaviour of customers during the Covid pandemic caused serious problems for carriers. Consequently, service levels decreased, and the lead times increased considerably. Ports were and still are confronted with considerable congestion. However, all parties involved in logistics are trying to find solutions to diminish the impact.

What does this mean for inland shipping? Is the present situation only a challenge or are there also opportunities? From a shipper’s perspective, I see substantial opportunities for co-modality and the barging industry in general. Inland shipping is probably the most reliable modality. Additionally, it is one of the cleanest modes of transport in terms of emissions per tonne-kilometre which is a significant asset, taking into consideration the high ambition of the European Commission in its “Fit for 55” package.

If I try to summarise in one word logistics over the coming years, that word would be capacity. This capacity is reflected, for instance, in the field of emissions, in the labour market, and in infrastructure. In the framework of sustainability in inland shipping, it will be a challenge to move from good to excellent. Small and Medium Enterprises play a crucial role in the barging industry. Investments in new ships are sometimes not very easy, especially if a ship has not reached the end of its economic lifetime. The banking industry plays a major role here and we will have to investigate whether shippers could also play their part. From the perspective of the European Shippers Council’s members, it is clear that they will not sign a blank cheque. For the coming times, I strongly believe that we should intensify our dialogue and find room for manoeuvre. Also, important stakeholders such as the European Commission should take a pragmatic approach as well as support the sector.

Looking at the labour market, one can see that the sector has the advantage of being far less labour intensive than the road haulage industry. At the same time, we should not close our eyes to the lack of personnel. All logistics stakeholders should work together in their efforts to make logistics more attractive and inclusive.

As regards hard infrastructure, inland shipping still has room for growth. There is a clear advantage for the inland shipping industry compared to other green modes, such as the rail industry. However, the sector should continue to prepare for the consequences of climate change, one of which is, for example, low water. Also, the role of small ships should not be neglected.

All in all, we can face the future with confidence. At the same time, we should be aware that other sectors are also moving in a more sustainable direction. Electricity and hydrogen will be introduced in road transport. Autonomous driving will extend the capacity in infrastructure. It is therefore now that inland shipping should take its market share and prove this mode’s advantages over others. When shippers are “in”, I am sure most of them will stay as users of barges.

To conclude, inland shipping is a sector to be proud of. At the same time, you should be more confident in yourselves and proclaim your message even louder to the outside world!


Godfried Smit
Secretary General
European Shippers’ Council (ESC)