Facts and forecasts
Selected data on inland waterway transport and future outlook.
Transport share & geography
While its share of overall freight traffic at 6% is small, Inland shipping is highly significant in regions with navigable waterways, reaching up to 44% of the total transport share in the catchment areas of major seaports.
Each year, inland shipping carries over 515 million tones in the EU, which represents a freight flow of 145 billion tonne-km. While the Western European waterways carry the majority of cargo and traffic continues to grow, Eastern European waterways have substantial growth potential once infrastructure bottlenecks are cleared.
Inland shipping is the largest carrier of building materials in Europe with a share of 39% and is an important carrier of cereals, agricultural products, solid fuels and ores. 80% of all transported hazardous goods such as solid fuels, petroleum products and basic chemicals are shipped by inland waterways. The most important products in terms of total volume transported are: liquid cargo (24%), sand & gravel (21%), various types of dry cargo such as containers (14%), agribulk (11.5%) and metal products (5.5%),
Major EU seaports have set modal split targets for containers up to 45% by inland waterway transport, as waterways are the only way to bypass saturated land networks. This means that container volumes by barge must quintuple in the next years. Moreover, inland shipping opens new markets for alternative fuels, waste and fast moving consumer goods.