Global freight connectivity by shipping, 2011


Observations for policy

Connectivity to Europe’s global freight ports via waterways is unevenly distributed across Europe. Only a limited number of European regions have access to Europe’s largest intercontinental container ports via waterways within three days.

The historic legacy and geographic position of regions matters. The most important intercontinental ports and the navigable inland waterways are clustered in a few parts of Europe. Improvements in ports and their connections by road, rail and water to the hinterland increase the potential for gateways.

Policy context

Regional access to the global market is considered to be important for a region’s competitiveness, exports and GDP. A large share of the global trade is shipped in containers. Goods are transported from Europe’s ports via road, rail and waterways across Europe and across the globe. Connectivity furthermore implies that cities and regions have access to the locations of materials for production and services and to markets. It is believed that cities and regions that are most accessible will be more productive, more competitive and hence more successful than remote and isolated regions.

The Common Transport Policy, aims at developing, competitive modes of transport that help to reduce the peripheral nature of regions as well as the development of lagging regions with poor endowments of transport networks and high transport costs. Especially in cross-border areas missing links have to be bridged and bottlenecks have to be replaced, in order to develop a comprehensive European transport network. Besides the traffic infrastructure of the different modes, infrastructure like freight terminals or logistic platforms plays a crucial role for the promotion of multimodal transport. Potentials of environment-friendly transport modes like inland waterways can only be fully exploited if infrastructures are available that allow for easy loading from road to rail and from rail to ship, or directly from road to ship, for example.

This is also supported by EU Cohesion Policy, which aims at sustainable transport and removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructure. Illustrating the regional accessibility by different modes of transport can help to indicate and show these bottlenecks.

Map interpretation

The map illustrates the accessibility of European regions to European intercontinental container ports. The accessibility is measured as the number of containers that can be transported to and shipped from nearby ports via waterways within three days. In this regards it shows the accessibility of the port’s hinterland via rivers, canals and seas.

The timeframe of three days shows the limited access of regions to intercontinental ports. Only a few regions are able to transport containers within the time limit, which can mainly be found within a range of 200-250 km from ports. For all other regions, either loading time or navigation time or both makes all intercontinental container ports unreachable within two days.

Surprisingly the limited access of regions applies also to regions located along some important inland waterways such as the Rhine or the Danube, and to inland regions in Southeast Spain. An explanation to this can be that transport by barges is relatively slow, and transhipments at ports is time consuming.

From the regions with global freight connectivity by shipping within three days, the regions around the North Sea have the highest throughput. This is also the region with the most and largest intercontinental ports, in terms of TEU shipped per year. Furthermore this is one of the regions with the highest density of navigable rivers and canals. Most other European regions lack these inland waterways.

Concepts and methods

Global freight connectivity is an accessibility indicator of Europe’s intercontinental ports. The map includes those European ports with intercontinental links and a throughput of more than 250.000 TEU containers (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) per year via waterways. Throughput is defined as the amount of containers passing through a region. The map only covers those containers that pass through a region which in the end have an intercontinental destination. Waterways can be rivers, canals, seas etc.

The map displays the number of intercontinental container throughputs that can reach the NUTS3 regions within 3 days (72 hours) by waterway. If a seaport is within the maximum travel time, the intercontinental container throughput of that port will be added to the regional global connectivity value for freight in thousands TEU per year. The travel time includes fixed time, e.g. loading time and transhipment time.