The European inland waterways shipping market is poised for significant growth, driven by increasing demand, sustainability efforts, and geopolitical shifts, as indicated by a report from M&A consultancy IMAP. Valued at $20 billion globally, the inland shipping market plays a crucial role in transporting goods within and between economies. IMAP’s report estimates the European inland shipping market at $10.2 billion, with a projected annual growth of 5%, outpacing global growth due to the EU’s sustainability focus. Europe’s inland shipping market constitutes almost half of the global market, with Asia being another significant player. The sector gains popularity as a sustainable transport mode, aligning with EU green policies.
Major rivers, including the Rhine, North-South Axis, and Danube, shape the industry, with the Netherlands playing a key role. Inland waterway shipping revenue in the Netherlands rose by 43% in 2022. Cereal grains, meat, and dairy products drive the European market, with dry bulk and liquid bulk products like chemicals and mineral oils also prominent. The war in Ukraine disrupted agri-food product shipping, while future trends include a 4.1% compound annual growth rate up to 2027, heightened sustainability, and increased market consolidation.
Larger companies are expected to pursue acquisitions to scale up, driven by the EU’s emissions reduction goals and geopolitical events reshaping supply chains.