Fewer goods transported by inland vessels in 2023

Uitzicht op een rivier met schip
© Tineke Dijkstra
Over 327 million tonnes of goods were transported by inland vessels on Dutch inland waterways in 2023. That was 5.2 percent less than the previous year. Less coal was transported, in particular. There was also a relatively sharp decline in container transport. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of new figures on inland navigation.

The total weight of containers transported fell by 13.1 percent in 2023. That was an even larger decline than in the previous year (9.8 percent). The weight of bulk goods transported decreased by 4 percent to 288 million tonnes. The biggest decline was in dry bulk goods, which were down by 7 percent. The volume of liquid bulk goods transported (such as refined petroleum products) actually increased slightly to 119 million tonnes, a rise of 0.6 percent.

Weight transported by inland vessel
Soort2023 (mln ton)2022 (mln ton)
Dry bulk168.6181.4
Liquid bulk119.3118.5

Outbound goods down relatively sharply, inbound goods down only slightly

The volume of goods destined for other countries decreased by 9.7 percent to 113 million tonnes. Outbound containers and dry bulk fell by the most, by 14.6 and 16.2 percent respectively. Volumes also decreased in domestic transport (down by 4.2 percent) and transit trade (down by 2.2 percent). In both cases, the largest percentage declines were in container transport. The total volume of inbound goods fell by 0.2 percent compared with 2022. Inbound container transport fell significantly by 21.9 percent, while the volume of inbound liquid bulk goods actually increased by 4 percent. This category mainly concerns refined petroleum products.

Weight transported by inland vessel, 2023
StroomChange (% change on previous year)
Inland vessel-4.2
Inbound goods-0.2
Outbound goods-9.7

Coal shipments fall again

Following increases in 2021 and 2022, the volume of coal transported declined once again in 2023 (by 34.0 percent). This decrease was mainly evident in outbound shipments to Germany. In 2023, 76 percent of the total volume of coal transported was bound for Germany. The transport of chemical products also fell slightly by 6.1 percent to 55.8 million tonnes. This mainly involved domestic shipments. On the other hand, the transport of refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel increased again in 2023 (by 5.3 percent). There was also a slight increase in shipments of metal ores and other minerals, which were up by 1.8 percent.

Weight transported by inland vessel
Goederensoort2023 (mln tonnes)2022 (mln tonnes)
Metal ores and other minerals85.383.8
Cokes and refined oil products65.762.4
Chemical products and synthetic or artificial fibres55.859.5
Coal, crude oil and natural gas19.930.1

Share of goods transported to and from Belgium increased

More than 58 million tonnes of goods were transported to Germany in 2023, meaning that Germany remained the most important destination for inland vessels. However, the drop in the volume of coal and iron ore transported reduced Germany’s share from 60.7 percent of inland waterway shipments in 2012 to 51.7 percent in 2023.

Meanwhile, the volume of goods transported to Belgium has increased over the past 11 years, particularly chemical products and refined petroleum products. Belgium’s share of outbound shipments in 2023 was 44.6 percent.

Goods leaving by inland vessel, by destination country
JaarBelgium (%)Germany (%)France (%)Other (%)
* provisional figures

A similar trend can be seen in inbound shipments. Belgium’s share of the total has been rising and stood at 54.7 percent in 2023, while Germany’s share has been declining and stood at 39.4 percent in 2023. With respect to inbound shipments, the volume of chemical products coming from Belgium has increased, in particular.

Goods arriving by inland vessel, by originating country
JaarBelgium (%)Germany (%)France (%)Other (%)
* provisional figures