EU Inland waterway transport hits a decade low in 2022

September 14, 2023

Between 2012 and 2022, transport activity on the EU’s inland waterways was volatile. Since 2017, the data have shown alternating rises and falls in activity, with the data for 2022 showing a substantial decrease of -10% (13 billion tonne-kilometres) compared with 2021. A similar trend can be observed for the same period in terms of tonnes, with a drop of -5% (or 29 million tonnes).

This information comes from data on inland waterway freight transport. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.

The Netherlands and Germany accounted for almost three quarters (73 %) of EU inland waterway transport performance (in tonne-kilometres) in 2022. Transport performance decreased in all countries compared with 2021, except in Lithuania (+251 %) and Finland (+31 %). However, these large increases in percentage should be considered in relation to the low initial value of tonne-kilometres performed and correspond to an increase of 7 million tonne kilometres for Lithuania and 45 million for Finland. The largest decreases in 2022 compared with 2021 were recorded in Bulgaria (-35 %), Croatia (-29 %), Poland (-25 %), Romania (-20 %), Hungary and Slovakia (both -19 %). In absolute values, Germany registered the highest decrease in 2022 (-4 billion tonne-kilometres, or -8%).

In 2022, more than half of the freight transport on EU inland waterways was conducted by vessels registered in the Netherlands (51 %). The remaining tonne-kilometres were conducted by vessels from 49 different nationalities, with Germany (16 %) and Belgium (9 %) holding the largest shares.

In 2022, Dutch vessels were in the top three nationalities for 6 countries out of 15 and were in first place in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

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Methodological notes:

  • For inland waterway freight transport in the EU:
    • Italy: 2022 data is not available. As a result, the change rate between 2022 and 2021 has been calculated excluding Italy.
  • For inland waterway freight transport by nationality of vessel:
    • Italy and Lithuania: data is not available.
    • Other: represents 44 nationalities.