River transport of goods, on the decline in our country

George Marinescu
English Section / 15 septembrie 2023

Photo sourceŞ facebook / Compania Naţională Administraţia Canalelor Navigabile SA

Photo sourceŞ facebook / Compania Naţională Administraţia Canalelor Navigabile SA

Versiunea în limba română

The river transport of goods and on the waterways connecting the Danube to the ports of Constanţa and Midia Năvodari decreased by over 20% in 2022 in our country compared to 2021, according to the report on naval transport on the inland waters of the European Union, a document published yesterday, by Eurostat.

The Eurostat report on river and inland waterway freight states: "Between 2012 and 2022, EU inland waterway transport activity was volatile. Since 2017, the data shows an alternation of increases with decreases in activity, while the data for 2022 indicates a substantial decline of 10% (13 billion tonne-kilometres) compared to 2021. (...) In 2022, the transport volume (in tonnes-kilometres) decreased in all European countries compared to 2021, with the exception of Lithuania which recorded an increase of 251.5% and Finland which saw a 30.6% increase in volumes transported by river vessels, but the two states initially transported a very small volume of goods on internal waters, i.e. 7 million tons, respectively 45 million tons. The largest decrease in the volumes transported on inland waterways compared to 2021 was recorded in Bulgaria (-34.6% or -2 billion ton-kilometers). It is followed by Croatia (-29.2% or -159 million ton-kilometers), Poland (-25.0% or -13 million ton-kilometers) and Romania (-20.4% or -2.8 billion ton-kilometers). The ranking of the decrease in volumes transported on rivers and streams continues with Hungary (-19.5%, or -400 million ton-kilometers), Slovakia (18.9%, or -200 million ton-kilometers) and Austria (-18.1% or - 300 million ton-kilometers). Inland waterway freight from the Netherlands (Netherlands) recorded the smallest decrease, with -4.4% (or 2 billion tonne-kilometres)'.

The main contributors to EU inland waterway transport (in tonne-kilometres) in 2022 were Germany and the Netherlands. Inland waterway transport in these two countries accounted for almost three quarters (73%) of EU inland waterway transport.

According to Eurostat analysis, international freight transport accounted for 56.5% of total river freight transport in 2022, while domestic transport was only 25.3% and transit transport 18.1%.

The cited document also provides information on the volume of goods transported per inhabitant, at the level of the European Union. Thus, last year, on the inland waterways of the EU, the volume of cargo transported by each European citizen amounted to 1.1 tons. The Netherlands (Netherlands) had the highest volume with 19.6 tonnes per capita, followed by Belgium (14 tonnes per capita) and Luxembourg (8.8 tonnes per capita). All other Member States recorded less than 2.5 tonnes per capita in 2022, and Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy transported less than 250 kilograms per capita.

In 2022, more than half of EU inland waterway freight was carried out by ships registered in the Netherlands (51%). Germany (16%) and Belgium (9%) follow. In fact, last year Dutch ships were in the top three nationalities for 6 of the 15 EU countries included in the Eurostat report and were in first place in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Empty containers on the Danube

The document drawn up by the Brussels institution's experts states that

the main types of goods transported on rivers, streams and waterways within the EU in 2022 were "metal ores", "coke and refined petroleum products", "chemicals, rubber, plastics and nuclear fuel". These top three categories accounted for 50.7% of all EU inland waterway freight transport. Compared to 2021, the largest changes in the share of different types of goods in the total transport performance were recorded for "coal and crude oil" (increase by 2.1 percentage points) and "agricultural products" (decrease by 1.7 percentage points). Transport performance (in tonne-kilometres) related to the commodity types shown saw a 15.3% increase in 2022 over 2021 for 'coal and crude oil' alone. In contrast, the largest decrease in transport performance was observed for "agricultural products" (-21.7%), followed by "secondary raw materials and waste" (-15.7%), "metal ores" (- 12.3%), "chemicals, rubber and plastic, nuclear fuel" (-9.9%), "base metals; fabricated metal products' (-8.3%) and 'coke and refined petroleum products' (-8.1%).

In 2022, "self-propelled barge" was the predominant type of vessel used to transport goods on EU inland waterways, carrying more than half (51.8%) of the total EU transport performance, based onton-kilometers. However, the volume of cargo carried by self-propelled barges decreased by 7.3% compared to 2021. The second and third most used vessel types were "self-propelled tank barge" (22.7%) and "non-self-propelled barge " (22.1%), categories also with decreasing use in 2022 compared to 2021 (-6.7% and -18.4% respectively).

Over 94% of river transport was carried out in the EU last year by self-propelled and non-self-propelled barges, as well as self-propelled tank barges.

The Eurostat report also shows that the transport of freight containers on EU inland waterways, measured in twenty-foot equivalent unit-kilometres (TEU-kilometres), saw a substantial decrease last year, by 8.1% compared to 2021, which means a transport performance of 1.4 billion TEU-kilometers, close to that of 2010, which was 1.3 billion TEU-kilometers.

Last year, the largest contribution to container transport was made by the Netherlands and Germany, which accounted for 86% of this type of transport at EU level. Apart from the two countries, the only states for which the river transport of cargo containers did not decrease are Romania, where this transport registered an increase of 862.1%, Bulgaria (+3,048.8%) and Croatia (+153, 2%), but specialists show that in the three countries most containers transported were empty.

According to Eurostat, 54.1% of the containers transported by river in our country had no cargo. The situation is worse in Bulgaria, where 86% of those containers were empty, and Croatia, where 98.3% of containers did not contain any product.

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