The Increasing Importance of Niche Markets in Inland Navigation and Its Influence on Capacity.

The Increasing Importance of Niche Markets in Inland Navigation and Its Influence on Capacity.


M Beelen, University of Antwerp, BE



The inland navigation sector in Western Europe has gone through major changes in the last decade. For many governments it has become a preferential transportation mode in order to decrease a number of negative aspects of goods transportation such as air pollution and congestion. Also ports, such as Antwerp and Rotterdam, acknowledge the importance of good inland waterway connections. In an environment where port hinterlands are contestable, the quality of hinterland transportation has become a major competitive advantage. Although necessary, a focus on infrastructure aspects and the modal choice of companies alone will not suffice. It is equally important to take a closer look at the supply in inland navigation and the way it is compound.

During the last 10 years, the inland navigation sector has adjusted itself to the demands of shippers. This led to many changes, including increased investments in vessels. Not only did this result in a more modern fleet and an increase in capacity, it also had other effects on the supply. Whereas only a limited number of vessel types existed in the past, during the last years several specialized vessels have been taken in operation. This specialization relates both to vessel-size and vessel-type.

In a growing competitive environment, ship-owners tend to focus on specific market segments or search for niche markets in order to increase their profits. It is clear that ships being built for certain niche markets are less employable in other segments. Furthermore, the increasing regulation and safety measures diminish the opportunities for vessels to shift markets. In that respect, capacity and possible overcapacity has to be determined per individual market segment. The aim of this paper is to analyze the current supply of vessels, their specialization and the effect on the supply in certain market segments.

Keywords: Inland navigation, supply, specialization, Europe, hinterland transportation


Association for European Transport