Inland shipping

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Heavy traffic on the Rhine in Cologne
Gas tanker

Inland shipping is predominantly professional / entrepreneurial shipping on inland waterways and inland waterways , i.e. on rivers, canals and lakes in the field of goods and passenger transport. A part of the pleasure boating also takes place in the inland navigation area. Inland shipping developed from rafting through towing and steam shipping to motorized shipping (see also the history of inland shipping ). As in maritime shipping, there are a large number of different types of ships in inland shipping .

Navigable waters used to be more important than they are today. Large rivers and their tributaries shaped economic areas (see also geography of Europe # rivers ), list of rivers in Europe . For example, carried the European watershed (between the German rivers that flow into the North and Baltic Sea and the river system of the Danube, which flows into the Black Sea) to a separation between the Danube countries in and other European countries. One reason for this was that transportation by other means (e.g. carts pulled by animals or people) was very arduous and slow. An indication of the importance of inland shipping before the advent of the railroad is that the Congress of Vienna had its own commission that only dealt with issues relating to river navigation .

Shipping routes, structures, ports

Inland navigation in Germany is particularly important on the rivers Rhine , Main , Danube , Moselle , Neckar , Weser , Elbe , Oder and Havel as well as on various canals such as the Mittelland Canal , the Elbe-Havel Canal , the Elbe Lateral Canal and the Main -Donau Canal , the Oder-Havel Canal , the Rhine-Herne Canal , the Dortmund-Ems Canal , the Datteln-Hamm Canal and the Wesel-Datteln Canal . The last three canals mentioned meet at Europe's largest canal junction in Datteln . In Germany there are about 7,300 km inland waterways, 75% rivers and 25% canals. This includes 335  locks , 280 weirs, three ship lifts , two dams and around 1,300  bridges . According to the Federal Ministry for Transport, Building and Urban Development ( BMVBS ), 56 of Germany's 74 metropolitan regions have a waterway connection. A port for inland waterway traffic is called an inland port . The port of Duisburg is the largest inland port in Europe (see category: Place with an inland port ).

Cargo shipping

Freight ships transport goods, especially coal and ores, agricultural goods, crude oil and petroleum products, sand and gravel, steel and scrap as well as containers , including dangerous goods .

2006 was the best year (since 1991) for freight transport in inland navigation in Germany; The last quarter in particular was characterized by strong demand for transport. The transport volume in 2006 was 243.5  million  t ; that was 2.8% more than in 2005. 82.0 million tons of this (33.7%) were transported on inland vessels flying the German flag. The freight transport performance was 64.0  billion  tkm .

The year 2009 was marked by the global economic crisis from 2007 ; the amount of goods transported by inland waterway vessels in Germany was 204.5 million t (compared to 2008 with 245.7 million t = 16.8% less than in the previous year). The value was thus about as low as in the mid-1960s (values ​​from the Federal Republic and GDR added together). In 2013, the transport volume of German inland shipping was again at 227 million tons, in 2014 228.5 million tons of cargo were transported, in 2015 it was 221.3 million tons.

In 2019, according to the Federal Association of German Inland Shipping (BDB), 205 million t (+ 3.6%) were transported with a transport performance of 50.9 billion tkm (+ 8.6% after the strong reductions due to the long period of low water in the Year 2018). Around 53 million t (+ 1.7% compared to the previous year) were transported within Germany, the transport abroad amounted to 48.9 million t (+10.5%), and that from abroad 90.5 million . t (- 0.3%), through traffic 11.4 million t (+ 11.4%). The amount of goods was divided into:

  • 38.1 million t of coke oven and mineral oil products (+ 15.8%)
  • 25.1 million t of chemical products (+ 4.2%)
  • 23.3 million tons of coal, crude oil and natural gas (- 11.1%)
  • 11.1 million t of consumer goods for short-term consumption and wood products (+ 7.3%)
  • 10.1 million t of metals and metal products (- 3.5%)
  • 02.5 million t of machines, equipment, durable consumer goods (+ 15.6%)

2.27 TEU were transported in container traffic (- 4.1%).

In 2017, 222.7 million t were transported with a transport performance of 55.5 billion tkm, the majority of which (187.7 million t) on the Rhine.
The crowd was divided among the groups of goods

  • 57.1 million t of ores, stones, earth (+ 4%)
  • 38 million tons of coke oven and mineral oil products (+ 1.9%)
  • 30.8 million tons of coal, crude oil and natural gas (- 9.7%)
  • 23.6 million t of chemical products (+ 2.6%)

An containers 2.58 million TEU were transported (2016: 2.45 million TEU), of which 82% on the Rhine. In 2017, the turnover of the BDB inland shipping companies amounted to a little more than 1½ billion euros. In 1957, vehicles for the transport of goods were recorded in the German inland shipping register.

Development of freight transport
in inland navigation in Germany
Year* Freight
(in million t)
Output in
ton kilometers
(in billion tkm)
Year* Freight
(in million t)
Output in
ton kilometers
(in billion tkm)
1950 72 16.8 2001 236 64.8
1955 125 28.6 2006 243 64.0
1960 171 40.4 2011 222 55.0
1965 196 43.6 2012 223.2 58.5
1970 240 48.8 2013 227 60.0
1975 237 47.6 2014 228.5 59.1
1980 241 51.4 2015 221.3 55.3
1985 222 48.2 2016 221.4 54.3
1990 222 54.8 2017 222.7 55.5
1991 230 56.0 2018 197.9
1996 227 61.3 2019 205 50.9
* The figures apply until 1990 for the old FRG, from 1991 for the whole of Germany
Source: Federal Statistical Office ,

In 2006, rail traffic accounted for a freight traffic volume of 346.2 million t (2015: 361.3 million t, -1.0% compared to the previous year) and road freight traffic accounted for 3,315.9 million t (2015: 3,506.5 million t). t, + 1.9%). In 2006, the share of inland waterway transport in the total freight transport performance of the land transport modes in Germany was 10.3%.

The development in the sub-markets was different. Container traffic in 2006 was 2.08 million  TEU (standard container ), in 2009 it was just under 1.9 million TEU, which is 8% less than in the previous year. In 2014, 2.38 million TEU were carried in inland shipping (+ 7.9% compared to 2013).

The freight volume for the various types of goods in 2006 was as follows:

Inland waterway transport in
Germany (2007) by type of goods
bulk cargo
General cargo, not
in a container
General cargo,
in a container *
164 million tons 41 million tons 29 million t 15.8 million t
* Weight including container
Source: Federal Statistical Office

Of this total, 322,000 TEU or 15.5% were carried under the German flag. Domestic German traffic accounted for 182,000 TEU and cross-border traffic for 1.898 million TEU.

Passenger shipping

Day trip ship Wappen von Köln

The importance of passenger shipping has on some inland waters as a tourist transport increased. There are now around 1000 passenger ships operating on German waters, carrying around 10 million passengers a year. The fleet of cabin passenger ships for cruises on inland waterways (" river cruises ") has grown. As of December 31, 2014, 989 day trip ships and 61 cabin passenger ships were registered for German passenger shipping on inland waters.

Ferries complement bridges that are far apart on rivers and canals with local transport links . They also save detours on long lakes .

Large inland shipping companies are u. a.

There are many medium-sized passenger shipping companies in the Middle Rhine area ; the Wurm & Köck shipping company is based in Passau .

The Swiss are important for Europe with their ships, the market leader in Germany is the Swiss shipping company Viking River Cruises .

Since April 2005 the Biesboschcentrum in Dordrecht (Netherlands) has been operating the handicapped-accessible passenger boat Halve Maen , which is the first boat to be equipped with a hybrid drive (diesel engine, electric motor, solar cells and storage batteries). At the Alsterschifffahrt (ATG) in Hamburg , in addition to the solar ship “Alstersonne”, the passenger ship “Alsterwasser” ( Zemships ) powered by fuel cells and an electric motor .

Supply and disposal of inland waterways

In the past, the provision boats drove to supply the inland vessels with fresh provisions . They were small, floating mom and pop shops . In addition to food and everyday necessities, clothing and equipment were also available for the ship. In the meantime, almost all supply boats have disappeared from the waterways, as every ship now has a power supply and refrigerators are on board.

Since a ship cannot simply drive to a gas station, there are bunker boats . These go alongside during the voyage and supply the ships with fuel, drinking water, lubricating oil and, if ordered in advance, with spare parts and materials that are necessary for the maintenance of the ships. In some cities there are also fixed bunker and service stations. You can now also buy food, drinks and newspapers there.

For disposal of oily waste, such as cleaning rags, used oil filters and oil-contaminated bilge water drive the bilge boats . These pump out the bilge water and waste oil. The bilge water is collected on board and cleaned or properly disposed of. A book on the consumption of lubricants must be kept on board every ship. It is checked by the water police and compared with the entries in the bilge book.

Spiritual assistance is also available for the crews on the waterways. In Duisburg there are two church boats (ev./kath.). In addition to prayers, baptisms and weddings take place on board. Small gifts are given to the children of the inland navigation boats on religious holidays.

Operating forms

In 2005 (as of June 30, 2005) 8116 people were employed in German inland navigation. 3977 persons were assigned to commercial inland shipping, 3,669 to passenger shipping. In the commercial group there were 844 ship owners, 3367 crew members and 610 employees on the land side. In passenger shipping, the number of ship owners was 395, the number of crew members 2908 and those working onshore 761 people.

With 1280 companies as of June 30, 2005, growth of 7.7% compared to 2004 was recorded. However, while dry cargo shipping decreased by 1.3% to 663 companies, passenger shipping grew by 70 companies to 380, an increase of 22.6%. The tanker industry accounted for 207 companies, a change of + 12.5% ​​compared to the previous year. 55 companies were recorded in tug shipping and 28 in factory shipping.

Types of operation in inland navigation regulate the daily driving and rest times depending on the size of the ship and the number of crew ( inland ship inspection regulations ). The following rules apply to navigation on the Rhine ( Appendix VI ):

  • A1 allows driving for up to 14 hours and an uninterrupted rest period of at least 8 hours outside of the journey, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This applies to seven days a week and 365 days a year.
  • A2 allows travel for up to 18 hours and 6 hours of rest between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
  • B allows travel for up to 24 hours and a rest period of 24 hours within 48 hours, of which two 6 hours must be uninterrupted.

The European industry, represented by the employers' associations of the European associations ESO and EBU, is currently conducting preliminary negotiations on the “social dialogue” with the European trade unions, accompanied by the EU Commission. The final negotiations on the regulation of working hours are to begin in October 2007 (the duration will then be a maximum of one year).

Carbon footprint

Transport by water is significantly more climate-friendly than by truck. According to the Federal Environment Agency, inland shipping only emits 32 grams of greenhouse gases per tonne-kilometer, with a truck it is 103 grams.

German inland fleet 2009

Latest generation container ship in Neuwied zu Berg; Max. 500 TEU

As of December 31, 2009, the German inland fleet consisted of a total of 4726 inland waterway units:

  • 15 bilge de-oilers with 1887 t and 2,421 kW0
  • 95 bunker boats with 14,438 t and 13,735 kW0
  • 1013 passenger ships for a total of 231,563 passengers, 58 of which are cabin ships with 6,675 beds
  • 73 goods barges with 45,148 t0
  • 931 motorized goods ships with a total carrying capacity of 1,177,358  t
  • 843 cargo barges weighing 854,514 t
  • 275 port launches with 13,328 t and an output of 28,523 kW
  • 142 tug boats with an output of 30,173 kW
  • 210 push boats with a total output of 110,669 kW
  • 78 0push tugs with an output of 22,933 kW
  • 522 barges with 132,555 t
  • 399 motor tankers with a total carrying capacity of 708,609 t
  • 12 0tank barges with 3,499 t
  • 44 0bulk barges with 46,395 t

In 1969 there were still 6765 cargo ships with a total of 4,135,000 tons (t) deadweight in Germany. The average age of the motor freight ships in operation in 2006 was 54.5 years (1976 = 44.0). The motor tankers had an average age of 29.23 years. In 1976 it was still 17.5 years (all information comes from ELWIS, the Federal Statistical Office and the annual report published in April 2010 on the Central Inland Waterways Register of the WSA Southwest, Mainz).

Inland shipping in Europe

In Western Europe, 15,000 vehicles were registered in inland navigation in January 2008, excluding auxiliary and supply vehicles.

  • The Netherlands has the largest share of inland waterway transport in Europe. The cargo ship fleet has 8,600 units, of which 5,000 are cargo ships, 1,000 push and tug boats and 920 are passenger ships. There are also around 1,700 barges, work boats and other floating equipment. In 2005 the transport volume was 330 million t, of which 65 million t were dangerous goods . The cargo ships have a total tonnage of 6.5 million t. 25 years ago there were more cargo ships, but the tonnage was lower. The inland waterway fleet has been significantly rejuvenated through subsidies for scrapping that are financially attractive for the shipowners . Around 15,000 people are employed in inland shipping. The Netherlands has a network of 5046 kilometers of waterways that can be navigated by ships over 50 t.
  • With DDSG-Cargo, Austria has the largest shipping company in Western and Central Europe; the transport volume nationwide is 10.2 million t. The length of the navigable Danube in Austria is 350 kilometers. 190 vehicles are registered here.
  • Belgium should also be mentioned as another important inland shipping nation. The fleet consists of around 1300 units, but they are already quite out of date. The number of new buildings has been increasing since 2000.
  • France ranks fourth among the inland navigation countries in Europe. Inland navigation plays a subordinate role. In 2009 around 3.7% of the total inland traffic was transported by ship, which corresponds to 7.4 million  tkm . The network of waterways is the longest in Europe with a length of 8,500 km. The main transport goods are building materials (32.2%), food (30.4%), chemical products (6.4%) and 6.1% metal products. About half of this is in the Seine area with the ports of Rouen and Le Havre . The Rhone-Saône waterway accounts for 1.28 million tkm and the Rhine around 1.1 million tkm. Between 2000 and 2010, the transport volume increased by 10%, from 2013 the connection from the Seine to the large shipping route Dunkirk-Scheldt is to be expanded. In 2010, the network of navigable waterways comprised 8,500 km of rivers and canals. The oldest canals date from the 17th century. 4100 km can be used for freight traffic, of which 2000 km for ships over 1000 tons deadweight and 2100 km for smaller ships (Pénichen and similar ships). 2600 km are available for tourism and recreational boating. The waterway network is divided into five basins. The Seine basin and the Oise are navigated from Le Havre to Montereau-Fault-Yonne . The waterway network in the northern department of the Pas-de-Calais region consists of numerous canals, including the Dunkirk-Scheldt Canal. The Rhone - Saône network essentially consists of these rivers. These can be navigated by ships with a load capacity of more than 1000 tons or up to 110 × 11.4 m. The Moselle is the main waterway that was expanded in the 1960s to become a major waterway for ships with a loading capacity of up to 3,000 tons. The easternmost waterway is the Rhine with the ports of Strasbourg and Mulhouse . The main inland ports are Paris , Strasbourg and Lille . The number of all inland vessels in 2008 was 2069 units, including 1126 motor cargo ships, 70 inland tankers, 196 push boats, 3 tugs and 674 push barges with a total load capacity of over 1.3 million tons. Around 70 large ships with an average deadweight of 1,800 tons operate in the Rhône-Saône basin and 470 large ships with an average deadweight of 1,100 tons in the Seine basin. The number of all inland vessels in 2008 was 2069 units, including 1126 motor cargo ships, 70 inland tankers, 196 push boats, 3 tugs and 674 push barges with a total load capacity of over 1.3 million tons. Around 70 large ships with an average deadweight of 1,800 tons operate in the Rhône-Saône basin and 470 large ships with an average deadweight of 1,100 tons in the Seine basin.
  • In Switzerland 111 units are registered: 18 cargo ships, 45 tankers, seven push boats, motor tractor and 39 passenger ships. The average size of the cargo ships is 1,836 tons and that of the tankers 2,280 tons, making Switzerland the largest average fleet on the Rhine.
  • Luxembourg has 83 barges, including 26 cargo ships, 27 tankers, 20 push and tug boats and two cargo barges and two tank barges each. The average size of cargo ships is 1,031 tons and tankers 1,745 tons.
  • With 921 inland waterway vessels, Poland is number two in Eastern and Central Europe. The fleet consists of 98 cargo ships with an average capacity of 500 tons, 233 push boats, 467 push barges, 14 motor tugs, four barges and 05 passenger ships.
  • With 2107 ships, Romania has the largest fleet in the Danube region. Stock 2008: 32 cargo ships (565 t), five tankers (1128 t), 124 push boats, 365 motor tugs, 54 push / tug boats, 735 push barges (1814 t) and 792 barges (500 t), of which 96 are tank barges. The average size is given in brackets.
  • 5861 ships are registered in Central and Eastern Europe, 1396 of them in Romania and 1302 in Poland .
  • Iberian Peninsula : Inland navigation does not play a major role in Portugal and Spain . Only in the estuary areas of the Douro , Tejo and Guadiana are inland waterway vessels, and river cruise ships have been increasing for several years. In Spain, barges with less than 1000 tons of deadweight operate on the Ebro, Guadalquivir and the Alfons XIII Canal in the middle reaches of the Ebro. The total amount transported is less than a million tons.
  • Italy has 2100 km of navigable waterways. The Po is navigable over a length of 652 km, from Cremona also for ships with a load capacity of 1,350 tons. The most important inland ports are Porto Garibaldi in Ferrara , Porto Levante in Rovigo and Porto Chioggia near Venice . The Arno is navigable from Florence .
  • England : In England, the first canal was built from the coal mines at Worsley to Manchester between 1759 and 1765 . New canals were quickly built, for example from London to Hull . In 1820 there were 103 canals with a length of 4,300 km. These are now navigable as narrow waterways for pleasure craft. More than 200 years ago, narrowboats with a load capacity of up to 30 tons used these canals. With the introduction of the railroad , shipping decreased significantly. In 1906 the government started thinking about saving inland shipping, but by then most of the canals were owned by the railway companies. In addition, the distances from the coast to the inland were very short. Today's waterway network is around 600 km long and inland waterway transport only plays a subordinate role here.
  • Scandinavia : As the rivers in Scandinavia are not very long and usually have a steep gradient, they are not very useful for inland navigation. Traffic takes place on the many lakes and canals. Due to the long periods of frost, the lakes in Finland are frozen for around 120 days and in Lapland for an average of 210 days.
    An important waterway is the Göta Canal between Gothenburg and Stockholm . For the first 95 km from Gothenburg to Lake Vänern , Göta älv is used for shipping. It can be used by ships up to 3500 tons. At Trollhättan the waterfalls are bypassed and a height difference of 44 m between Lake Vänern and Lake
    Vättersee is overcome with the Trollhättan Canal , a lock staircase . In Motala , the Göta Canal branches off to Stockholm and thus to the Baltic Sea. A total of 65 locks have to be passed. The freight volume amounts to around 20,000 tons annually. In Finland, the 43 km long Saimaa Canal , which connects the Saimaa with the Baltic Sea, is an important waterway. The difference in height of 76 m is overcome with eight locks. The drop heights are between 5.54 m and 12.69 m. Originally, the canal was opened in 1856, 28 locks were required for this. Ships with a deadweight of up to 3,000 tons transport around 1.3 million tons of wood, paper, cellulose and oil products every year. Important ports are Ristiina , Joensuu , Savonlinna , Lappeenranta , Varkaus and Imatra . The canal flows into the Baltic Sea at Vyborg . About the Taipalekanal at Varkaus and Konnuskanal in Leppävirta , Saimaa with the other large lakes of Finland was connected lakes. In the past, these canals were primarily used for rafting , today they are of considerable importance for both industrial and tourist inland shipping.

The total length of the European waterways is 39,500 kilometers.

Koppelverband on the Rhine near Andernach

Inland shipping in Russia

Uniform deep water system ( ЕГТС )

At the end of the 19th century, a committee was set up in Russia to investigate the waterways. It was about the deepening of the Volga and various canal projects, such as the connection of the White Sea with the Baltic Sea and the Caspian Sea with the Sea of ​​Azov .

Many ships had a carrying capacity of 1500 tons, there were also huge wooden perches (barges) with a length of 160 m, a width of 19 m and a side height of 7 m. These could transport up to 5000 tons. Perches made of wood were also built for the one-off transport of wood down the valley and had a load capacity of 16,000 tons at a depth of 5 m . Later, perch made of steel with a length of up to 153 m, a width of 21 m and a draft of 4.8 m were built that transported up to 9,000 tons of crude oil. These ships were grained or sailed by people or horses. After the October Revolution in 1917, inland shipping was resumed in Russia and in 1925 the fleet consisted of 2945 tugs and self-propelled ships and 7637 cargo ships with a capacity of 3.9 million tons.

The Russian Federation has 102,000 km of navigable waterways with 125 ports, all of which have good connections to the rail and road network. Most of the inland navigation takes place in the European part of Russia. The main rivers are: Volga , Neva , Swir , Don and Dnepr . The rivers are connected by various channels, such as the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal , the Volga-Baltic Sea Canal , the Volga-Don Canal and the Moscow-Volga Canal . The width and depth of the driveway as well as locks and bridge clearance heights are good. This river and canal system is called the "uniform deep water system". It is 6,500 km long and is navigable with a guaranteed draft of 3.6 m for ships with a deadweight of 5,000 t. It connects the Baltic Sea , Barents Sea and Northern Arctic Ocean with the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea .

Less than four percent of all goods are transported via inland waterways. In 2004, 136 million tons of goods and 30 million passengers were carried. In the record year 1998, 580 million t were transported. After a decrease in the mid-1990s to 100 million t, the volume of transport has increased again since 1999.

The Russian inland fleet consists of around 29,000 units, of which 15,000 are cargo ships with an average loading capacity of 850 t and a total of 12.7 million t. The 950 passenger ships offer space for 140,000 passengers. In the last 15 years, the entire fleet has shrunk by around 20%.

The 1,100 river seagoing vessels with a load capacity between 1,400 and 5,500 tons are of particular importance . In 2004 they transported around 30 million t. More than 90% of this was accounted for by the large shipping companies North-Western Shipping Company , White Sea-Onega-Reederei , Wolga-Reederei and Wolgotanker . These ships can be used all year round. In winter, when the rivers and inland lakes are frozen, they are used in shipping.

Inland shipping outside Europe


Inland container ship on the Pearl River in China

China has 123,964 km of navigable waterways, 1,300 ports and a fleet of 194,352 ships. About 60% of the waterways are navigable for ships over 50 m, 6.5% for ships over 1,000 tons and 10% for ships under 500 tons. All ships together have a loading capacity of 30 million t and 900,000 passengers.

The three largest rivers are the Yangtze River , the Pearl River and the Imperial Canal . The Yangtze (6,378 km) connects central and southwest China with Shanghai . 795 million tonnes are transported over the Yangtze annually, which corresponds to around 80% of all goods in inland waterway traffic. In 2003 around 3 million containers were transported.


For inland shipping, North America (Canada and USA) has an extensive network of canals and rivers. The Saint Lawrence River with its connection to the Great Lakes lies on the border between the two states . The St. Lawrence Seaway is the most important waterway in Canada, 1240 km long and empties into the Atlantic. Between 1954 and 1959, the 293 km long route between Montreal and Lake Ontario was expanded so that ocean-going ships can also reach the Great Lakes. Due to the weather (ice drift), this waterway is only navigable for around eight months a year. The Welland Canal , a bypass of the Niagara River , connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie and is 43.4 km long. The Great Lakes, connected by canals, are used by both sea and inland waterway vessels. The Great Lakes and their canals form a 3700 km long large shipping lane with a connection to the Atlantic . The total load capacity of the inland fleet is over 500,000 tons. The most important ports are Cleveland , Toledo , Buffalo and Chicago , which is the largest inland port in the world with over 40 million tons. The main cargo is coal, petroleum and chemical products.

United States


Inland waterways USA
USA: 12% of the transport volume is provided by inland shipping

The period 1861–1920 is characterized by a dominance of the railways. The share of inland navigation in 1920 was only 2% of the transport performance. A report by the “Inland Waterways Commission” from 1908 initiated the systematic improvement of the waterways. The First World War led to an overload of the railway network in 1916–1918. Since then, more than 60% of the United States' total navigable waterway has been upgraded to a depth of at least 2.75 m. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway marks the end of the expansion of the waterways .

The waterway network consists mainly of the river system of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes , which are connected to the North Atlantic via the Saint Lawrence Seaway in Canada. Inland shipping in the United States occurs primarily on the east coast and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi estuary in the Gulf of Mexico . On the west coast, only the Columbia River, which is regulated by congestion, is navigable for long stretches. Barges can go as far as Lewiston, Idaho . There were designs to make smaller rivers such as the Willamette River , the Snake River or the Umpqua River navigable, but these were not implemented because of the frequently changing water levels and very steep banks. Most rivers on the west coast are unsuitable for commercial shipping.

East Coast Waterways

The Mississippi river system is connected to the Great Lakes by the Illinois Waterway and extends into the Gulf of Mexico. The main port cities on the upper reaches are Pittsburgh , Cincinnati , St. Paul, Chicago , St. Louis, Kansas City and Memphis . Below the confluence of the Ohio River , the Mississippi is navigable for ocean-going vessels. Other navigable rivers in the east are the Potomac River , Hudson River, and Atchafalaya River . These rivers are maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). On the east coast, the 4800 km long Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway run from Boston to Brownsville (Texas) . This canal is also partially passable for seagoing vessels.


USACE oversees nearly 19,000 km of inland and intercoastal waterways. In the 191 dams there are 237 lock chambers with different dimensions. Locks of 300–370 m, 180–305 m and 183 m in length are common. The width is 34 m. In the largest locks, formations with 17 barges and push boats can be locked. The ten locks on the Tennessee River are operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority . The annual freight volume amounts to around 600 million tons with a value of over 73 billion dollars.

Pusher shipping

The main means of transport are the push units. On smaller rivers they usually consist of 4 to 6 push barges and a push boat. On the larger rivers, push convoys with up to 15 barges and 22,500 tons of deadweight are standard. Associations with 40 to 50 barges operate below the mouth of the Ohio River; the most powerful push boats have up to 10,500 hp. Lone drivers, i.e. motor cargo ships like in Europe, are largely unknown.


The main cargo is coal, followed by petroleum products. 60 percent of agricultural products are transported via inland waterways. Other goods are building materials, chemicals, ores, fertilizers and steel.


In the United States , 18% of cargo is transported by waterway. They have 300 ports in which 2 billion tons are handled annually, in the four most important ports it is 200 million tons.

Inland navigation has limited growth opportunities. Some of the locks are only 138 meters long, resulting in waiting times of up to 30 hours. Inland shipping is therefore not a reliable transport partner. There are plans to upgrade the waterways, but the resources are limited and the problems for an environmentally friendly upgrade are great.

Container traffic is dominated by the railways and the transport of coal and ores is declining. The government is making efforts to shift the transport of dangerous goods more to shipping.

In the USA, the largest push convoys operate with up to 40 barges on the lower Mississippi , but the barges are smaller than on the Rhine. They are 59 m long and 10.6 m wide and have a load capacity of 1,500 t. Around 17,000 barges are registered in the Mississippi area. The most powerful push boat has over 10,000 hp.

South America

Waterways in South America


The Amazon with a length of 6448 km is the largest river system in the world with around 1000 tributaries. 25,000 km of this system are navigable. As far as Manaus , 1,600 km from the coast, seagoing ships up to 10,000 tons and ships up to 3,000 tons can reach Iquitos in northeastern Peru. From the mouth to Manaus, the Amazon is on average 20 m deep. Around 20,000 inland vessels operate on the entire electricity system (as of 1988). More than 1000 modern inland barges and push convoys now operate there. The most important goods are wood, coffee, cocoa, nuts, leather and industrial products. In addition to freight transport, passenger shipping plays a major role. Around 100 inland ports are available for loading.

Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina

The Paraná (4700 km) and its tributaries Rio Paraguay , Río Pilcomayo , Río Bermejo , Rio Solado and the 1816 km long Rio Uruguay are used by inland shipping. On the Rio Paraná , seagoing ships go to Rosario , inland barges operate as far as the Brazilian mountains. The Rio Paraguay is navigable over a length of 2200 km.

Expansion of inland shipping

In South America, ores, grain, soybeans and fertilizers are transported on the Rio Paraguay and the Río Paraná on a 3000 km route between Argentina and Paraguay . The South African shipping company Imperial Logistics International , which also operates a large fleet of inland vessels in Germany, delivered five push boats to Paraguay that were no longer needed on the Rhine. These boats were adapted to the requirements in South America and equipped with larger tanks and modern electronics. There they travel with up to twelve push barges. Two new, larger push boats were built in the Netherlands and brought to South America on a special ship, christened Hercules XVII and Hercules XVIII on September 27, 2016 , and should go into service in October 2016. 72 push barges that were built in Paraguay are available for transport. In the long term, there are also plans to transport containers and use ships for petroleum products and gas. The container ship Nautic Twin was put into service in Paraguay in March 2017 . It is a new building made up of two 120 meter long hulls welded together and a total of 30 meters wide. The loading capacity is 726 TEU or around 10,000 tons. The hulls, formerly 135 m long and 14.5 m wide, were shortened by 15 m and delivered by the Concordia Group from the Netherlands.


Most of the African rivers form what are known as basin river systems. The climatic conditions and the geological and geographical conditions do not allow shipping on many rivers, or only partially.


Egypt has an inland waterway network of around 5000 km in length and an inland fleet with over 400,000 tons of deadweight. At 6671 km, the Nile is the longest river, and there is only heavy shipping traffic from Aswan. In addition to motor and steam ships, there are many traditional sailing cargo ships. The Ismailia Canal runs as a freshwater canal between the Nile and the Suez Canal . Inland navigation is less pronounced on the upper reaches of the Nile in Sudan . There, the routes between the second and sixth cataracts and the Blue and White Nile are used. The total length of the navigable waterway is around 3000 km.


Because of its many waterfalls and rapids, the Congo can only be navigated in parts. The largest inland port is Kinshasa, which is connected to Matadi seaport by rail and road . Inland shipping connects Kinshasa with Kisangani and Bangui , and there is a ferry service to Brazzaville .

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has approximately 16,300 km of inland waterways. A national company holds the transport monopoly. The main sailing area is the Kinshasa-Ilebo route. The transport volume is one million tons per year.


The Niger is only important for shipping from the mouth of the Benue . Many ships operate between the port cities of Warri , Buruti, Koko and Sapele. The main goods are precious wood, palm oil , oil cake and industrial products. The Central Water Transportation Company has operated pusher shipping since 1980 , the barges have a load capacity of 750 tons. Inland navigation in the delta area operates all year round, and from August to February to Yelwa.

Lake Tanganyika

Inland vessels operate on this lake between Tanzania, Zambia, Zaire and Burundi.

Comparison with other modes of transport

Towing Train on the Spree in Berlin (1928)

In Europe, an average of 5% of the transport service is provided by inland waterway transport . In some European countries, however, the percentage of inland transport is higher. In Germany it was around 11.9%, in Belgium 14.3% and in the Netherlands even 14.9%. The transport of goods by inland waterway transport thus ranks third behind the transport volume by road ( truck ) and by rail ( railroad ).

Compared to road and rail, inland shipping is the most economical mode of transport in terms of energy consumption . A ship with a load capacity of 1000 t transports as much as forty trucks or a freight train. A push boat with two 1,700 kW outputs consumes 500 liters of diesel oil per hour when driving uphill and can push four barges with a payload of 10,000 t. At an average speed of 10 km / h, this means a consumption of 0.5 liters per 100 tonne-kilometers (tkm). When driving down to the valley without cargo, full power is no longer used. Then such a push boat only consumes 300 liters per hour.

On average, inland shipping consumes around 1.3 liters of diesel for 100 tonne-kilometers, railways around 1.7 liters and truck traffic around 4.1 liters.

According to a study by the Environment Ministry of Flanders , the external environmental costs for noise protection (day and night), infrastructure , fuel production, vehicle construction and air pollution are 7.5 cents per 1000 tkm for ships, 22 cents for trucks without traffic jams and 23 cents with traffic jams. 5 cents. The number of accidents in Flanders is 7 accidents / billion tkm, 11 on the Rhine and 150 accidents / billion tkm in road traffic. Inland waterways have three to five times less consumption / CO 2 emissions than truck traffic .

When it comes to particulate matter from internal combustion, inland waterway vessels do worse than trucks or trains according to the Federal Environment Agency. Fine dust from abrasion from tires, brakes and asphalt, as well as whirling up, do not occur in inland waterway transport. According to studies, these sources account for up to 85 percent of particulate matter from road traffic.

Basis of inland navigation on the Rhine

The Mannheim Act or Rheinstrom Act forms the basis for navigation on the Rhine . It goes back to the year 1868 and includes the freedom of navigation and the freedom of taxes through equal treatment of flags, elimination of shipping taxes, transit duties, handling and stacking rights as well as simplified customs clearance and uniform technical and shipping police regulations. More recent regulations are based on this contract.

Regulations and regulations

In Europe, the coordinate Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations the laws on inland waterways since 1956th The European Inland Waterways Regulations (CEVNI) were passed in 1985, but national and local regulations may differ from this.

In Germany there are a number of ordinances and police regulations for inland navigation:

  • The Inland Waterways Regulations (BinSchStrO) regulate traffic on inland waterways.
  • The inland ship inspection regulations contain regulations on the construction and equipment of ships.
  • Lake Constance shipping regulations
  • Danube Shipping Police Ordinance (DonauSchPV)
  • Moselle Shipping Police Ordinance (MoselSchPV)
  • Rhine Shipping Police Ordinance (RheinSchPV)
  • Ordinance on security personnel in passenger shipping (FSV)
  • Ordinance on certificates of competency in inland navigation (Binnenschifferpatentverordnung - BinSchPatentV)
  • Ordinance on the domestic and cross-border transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterways (Hazardous Goods Ordinance on Road, Rail and Inland Shipping - GGVSEB)
  • Ordinance on the limitation of exhaust emissions from diesel engines in inland navigation (Inland Shipping Exhaust Emissions Ordinance - BinSchAbgasV)
  • Ordinance on costs of the water and shipping administration in the field of inland navigation (Inland Shipping Costs Ordinance - BinSchKostV)
  • Ordinance on the authorization to drive on the Eder and Diemel dams as well as the defense against river and shipping police dangers (Dam Ordinance - TspV)
  • Ordinance on the transport of dangerous goods (ADN)

Regulations, guidelines and updates are published via the ELWIS electronic waterway information system .

In Switzerland, the ordinance governing shipping on Swiss waters regulates inland shipping.

Terms from inland navigation

  • General cargo : In inland shipping, items up to 300 tons are still considered general cargo. For comparison: in the case of road transport, up to 3 tons are classified as general cargo and in maritime shipping 800 tons are classified as general cargo.
  • Particular : He usually has one to three ships. He is an independent entrepreneur, has no commercial land organization, only the ship is a place of work.
  • Shipping company : You use your own or someone else's shipping space for acquisition. There is a strict separation between the commercial land organization and the technical implementation of transport.
  • Cooperative : It is an amalgamation of several parties and takes over the commercial organization.
  • Shippers : It includes the sender freight contracts with the exporting carrier under contracts of carriage, so he has a dual function (carrier and sender). In the ocean shipping charterer is only the waybill moderate sender !
  • Cabotage : term for inland freight transport by foreign carriers
  • Scrapping bonus: It is a bonus granted for the scrapping of an inland waterway vessel for the purpose of cleaning up the structure of inland waterway transport in the European Union. By granting this premium to the owner of an inland waterway vessel, excess capacity in European inland navigation should be reduced. The scrapping campaign was regulated by Council Regulation (EEC) No. 1101/89 of April 27, 1989 on structural adjustments in inland waterway transport .
  • Engine funding: Refers to the “Sustainable Modernization of Inland Ships” funding program, which is intended to enable poorly financed shipping companies to install environmental technology to reduce fuel consumption and pollutants. A funding rate of up to 70 percent is currently possible.
  • Ship requirements: materials for daily use (e.g. paints, varnishes, cordage, wire ropes, hose goods, pumps, etc.)

Inland navigation training

Kauber boat mast


In Kaub , a skipper's mast reminds of the inland skippers who perished on duty:


Inland navigation training takes place in the dual system , which includes training on board and in school. There are two vocational schools for boatmen in Germany:

After the three-year training period, the sailor examination takes place . From a minimum age of 21 years, a journey time of four years and proof of a certain number of trips, participation in a patent course to obtain a Rhine boatman's patent or inland waterway's patent is possible. After passing the exam, he is employed as a pilot with a patent , later also as an independent skipper.

One differentiates:

  • Large patent - it entitles you to drive all kinds of vehicles
  • Small patent - authorizes the driving of vehicles that are no longer than 35 m or transport no more than twelve people
  • Sports patent - valid for sports vehicles that are no longer than 25 m
  • Canal penichen patent - for canal penichen between Basel and Iffezheim
  • Government patent - for driving government vehicles and fire boats

These patents allow sailing on almost all inland waterways in Zones 1-4. However, additional knowledge of the route must be proven for various sub-areas.

See also: BinSchUO, Rhine Patent Ordinance and Inland Ship Patent Ordinance

In addition to the patent, a skipper also needs a radiotelephone certificate for VHF and, according to his employment in shipping, a radar certificate (patent) and an ADNR test (Accord Européen relatif au transport international des marchandises dangereuses par voie de navigation du Rhin, that is: European Agreement on the Transport of Dangerous Goods on the Rhine. This also applies to corresponding supplementary ordinances on other waterways).

The Rheinschiffer patent can be obtained for various sections of the route. For the route from Duisburg to the Netherlands and Belgium, for example, the patent can be obtained from Duisburg to the open sea. An additional patent is required for the Danube.


In Austria there is also an apprenticeship in inland navigation and the three-year training is completed on the ship and at the Apollogasse vocational school (Vienna). In contrast to the otherwise largely identical German training, skills in the field of ship control are limited in Austria. The apprentice takes the final apprenticeship examination at the end and can become a seaman after further in-house training. Further training to become a ship's helmsman also takes place in the company or by filing patents.


"En aalen Scheffmann" Moselle-Franconian poem from the former river boat town of Oberbillig

See also


  • Rolf Schönknecht, Armin Gewiese: On rivers and canals. Inland shipping in the world . Steiger, Moers 1988, ISBN 3-921564-98-0 .
  • Association for European inland navigation and waterways (ed.): WESKA, European shipping and port calendar . Binnenschifffahrtsverlag, Duisburg (annually reissued, annual reports of the Federal Association of German Inland Shipping eV (BDB / annually), BAG - market observation reports, ZKR - homepage, Bonapart, DVZ, association communications from BDB, BDS Binnenschiffahrt eV, ESO-Brussels, EBU-Brussels, VBR -Belgium, Het Kantoor-Netherlands, ELWIS, Schuttevaer NL, De Scheepvaartkrant NL, VAART-NL, manual for inland waterway transport)
  • Dankwart Danckwerts : Status and perspectives of German inland shipping . ver.di, Berlin 2004, DNB 972617000 .
  • Annette Fimpeler-Philippen: Shipping and its vehicles on the Lower Rhine from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century (studies on Düsseldorf economic history, volume 5, plus publication from the Düsseldorf city archive, volume 19). Commiss. Verlag Droste, Düsseldorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-7700-3057-6 (Review in: Contributions to the Rhine customer , issue 59/60, 2007/08, Koblenz 2008, p. 105)
  • Klaus Ramming: Hamburg manual on inland waterway freight law . CH Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58262-2 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Inland navigation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Frank Binder: German seaports: throughput decreased by 0.6 percent . In: Daily port report from February 10, 2014, p. 1.
  2. More goods by water · Inland waterway transport: 228.5 million tons of cargo in 2014 . In: Daily port report of August 31, 2015, p. 1/3.
  3. Frank Binder: Freight traffic: another record for transport volumes · Noticeable decline in volumes in sea and inland waterway transport . In: Daily port report of February 17, 2016, p. 1.
  4. Benjamin Klare: Loss of volume partially compensated · Inland shipping increases transport and traffic performance after low water in 2018 . In: Daily port report from April 9th, p. 2.
  5. Wolfhart Fabarius: Transport volume increased slightly · Inland shipping sees ten-year development at a constant level . In: Daily port report of October 18, 2018, p. 1.
  6. a b Inland navigation 2007. ( Memento of November 16, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) Federal Statistical Office
  7. Transport performance : freight transport . Federal Office of Statistics
  8. Daily port report , April 19, 2013, p. 3
  9. More goods are growing via water and container business · 2.38 million TEU transported in 2014 - an increase of 7.9 percent . In: Daily port report from August 31, 2015, pp. 1 + 3.
  10. Alster Sun.
  11. Annette Jensen: Alternative transport routes: A shipping that is ... In: Die Tageszeitung: taz . December 1, 2019, ISSN  0931-9085 ( [accessed August 4, 2020]).
  12. Data on traffic, edition 2012. (PDF) In: Federal Environment Agency, 2012, accessed on August 4, 2020 .
  13. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, p. 185. Shipping in Portugal, Spain, Italy
  14. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, pp. 15, 23, 51. Shipping in England
  15. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, pp. 183-185. Shipping in Scandinavia
  16. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, pp. 64/65. Shipping in Russia
  17. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, pp. 64/65. Shipping in Russia
  18. Großer-Seen-Seeweg accessed on April 15, 2017 (English)
  19. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, pp. 203-205. Shipping in Canada
  20. ^ Hans Heiner Heuser: Cargo ships on inland waterways . In: Yearbook of the Port Construction Society . tape 39 . Springer-Verlag, 1982, ISBN 978-3-642-52225-3 , pp. 53-66 .
  21. Inland Shipping USA (PDF), accessed April 19, 2017
  22. Schönknecht, Gewiese: On rivers and canals . 1988, pp. 208 and 225. Shipping in South America
  23. A second life for the Rhine fleet . In: FAZ , July 4, 2016, p. 20
  24. New container ship Nautic Twin
  25. - Federal Statistical Office: Freight transport statistics inland navigation 2014 (PDF)
  26. - Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration: primary energy demand
  27. Systemadmin_Environment: Emissions data . In: Federal Environment Agency . October 26, 2012 ( [accessed May 19, 2017]).
  28. Fine dust: Brake, tire and asphalt abrasion causes trucks to fall behind barges. Retrieved May 19, 2017 .
  29. United Nations , Economic Commission for Europe : EC 1947–1987 . UN 1987, ISBN 9-2111-6390-0 , p. 71.
  30. ^ Marian Martin: The European Waterways: A User's Guide . A&C Black, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4729-0155-2 , p. 60 .
  31. Inland Shipping Working Group, Inland Transport Committee, Economic Commission for Europe : European Inland Waterways Regulations , fourth revised edition, 2013, p.
  32. ( Memento from August 25, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  33. Text of the inland navigation inspection regulations
  34. ^ Text of the Danube Shipping Police Ordinance
  35. ^ Text of the Moselle Shipping Police Ordinance
  36. ^ Text of the Rhine Navigation Police Ordinance
  37. (PDF) - repealed by Article 8 No. 3 V. v. December 16, 2011 Federal Law Gazette II p. 1300
  38. Text of the inland navigation patent regulation
  39. ^ Text of the Hazardous Goods Ordinance on Road, Rail and Inland Shipping
  40. Text of the inland ship exhaust emission regulation
  41. Text of the Inland Shipping Costs Ordinance
  42. Text of the dam ordinance
  44. Inland waterways and inland waterway law . In: ELWIS . Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  45. Structural adjustment of inland navigation
  46. Regulation (EEC) No. 1101/89 of the Council of April 27, 1989 on structural adjustments in inland waterway transport .
  47. Electronic waterway information service. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on August 20, 2017 ; accessed on May 19, 2017 (sustainable modernization of inland waterway vessels).
  48. Motor funding program: Now up to 70 percent from the state. Retrieved May 19, 2017 .
  49. Training ordinance in inland navigation in Austria ( Memento of November 27, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 48 kB) of the Austrian Ministry of Economics, valid since 2000.