Inland navigation reached record level in 2021

Inland vessel sailing through Rotterdam
In 2021, inland vessels carried 369 million tonnes of goods. This is 5.8 percent more than in the previous year and also the heaviest weight ever carried over a year via inland waterways. The volume of outbound cargo shipments was 11.3 percent higher than in 2020. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of newly released figures.

The total weight carried by inland vessels mainly rose due to an increase in the transportation of dry bulk such as coal and iron ore. In 2021, dry bulk shipments (52 percent of total weight transported) increased by 7.6 percent to 191.8 million tonnes. Transportation of liquid bulk and container goods rose as well, by 4.4 and 2.2 percent respectively.

Turnover in inland waterway transport was more than 11 percent higher than in 2020 and comparable to 2019. This was not only due to the increase in transported goods, but also due to the higher tariffs.

Weight transported by inland vessels, 2020-2021
Soort vervoer2020 (million tonnes)2021 (million tonnes)
Dry bulk178.3191.8
Liquid bulk118.8124.1
Container goods51.953.1

More outbound shipments

Last year, inland vessels transported nearly 129 million tonnes of goods from the Netherlands to foreign destinations. This is an increase of 11.4 percent on the previous year. Transport to Germany, the main foreign destination of inland vessels, increased in particular. Coal shipments accounted for the largest share in this increase, rising by 43 percent year on year.

Weight transported by inland vessels, 2021
vervoerstroomWeight transported (year-on-year % change)

Sharp increase in coal shipments

In 2021, inland vessels transported 28.6 million tonnes of coal, nearly 35.0 percent more than in 2020. Transport of basic metals, coke and refined petroleum products was up as well, by 40.0 and 5.1 percent respectively. Metal ores and other minerals remained the most transported goods by inland vessels, despite a slight decrease. In 2021, transport of metal ores amounted to 90.4 million tonnes, 0.4 percent less than in 2020.

Weight transported by inland vessels
Goederen2021 (million tonnes)2020 (million tonnes)
Metal ores and other minerals90.490.7
Coke and refined petroleum products83.979.6
Coal and lignite, crude oil
and natural gas
Basic metals17.212.3

More and more shipments by bulk carriers

Bulk carriers transported an average of 1,725 tonnes per movement in 2021. This represents a year-on-year increase of 4.4 percent. The average weight transported by container ships stood at 1,245 tonnes, almost the same as in 2020. The average carrying capacity of bulk carriers has expanded as well in recent years. In 2021, it amounted to 2,238 tonnes, 17.9 percent more than ten years previously.