Summary of our market study

The river transport market, particularly in France and Europe, is experiencing mixed trends as of 2020. While river freight transport in the European Union saw a significant reduction in goods transported, with a sharp decline marked in countries like Germany, France displayed resilience with only a 3% decline in river freight compared to the 9% decline in rail transport. The French river freight is predominantly used for transporting ores and similar products, accounting for 10% of such goods transported nationally. Conversely, passenger river transport witnessed a severe impact due to the COVID-19 crisis, with a drastic fall in sales. The Seine remains the dominant river basin for freight in France, accounting for over 45% of the traffic.

The market structure reveals a high concentration of traffic on wider waterways and sees larger vessels being more heavily utilized. In response to ecological objectives and to revitalize the sector, the French government has increased investment in the national river network, with plans to invest over 300 million euros in 2020 and 2021 for modernizing infrastructure. Despite the challenges, there is an emerging trend towards electric river transport, with investments in 100% electric boats for both freight and passenger services, showcasing an inclination towards sustainable development in the industry.

Trends and Insights into the River Transportation Market in France

The river transportation market in France, encompassing both passenger and freight transport, presents a significant potential for ecological transition despite experiencing various challenges in recent years. The French network, boasting upwards of 8,500 km of waterways, is the longest in Europe, yet it surprisingly accommodates a mere 3% of the nation's total goods traffic. Nevertheless, burgeoning growth, as evidenced by a 20% increase in volume transported by waterways, indicates a resurgence in this sector. River passenger transport in France is predominantly characterized by leisure activities such as tourism cruises and excursions, alongside public transport which is more localized, for example on Lake Annecy.

Contrastingly, river freight is valued for its economic efficiency and capacity for moving large goods volumes, offering an alternative to the often congested road networks. Despite these advantages, the broader European context shows a decline in river freight transport. The European Union witnessed an 8.5% decrease in goods transported by inland waterways in a single year, marking a concerning trend for the industry. Notably, European road transport continues to encroach upon the market shares once held by rail and river freight, with a near 3% increase over a span of five years.

Focusing on France, river transport plays a minor role in overall waterborne transport sales, contributing to just 4% of the sector's sales. Interestingly, while freight dominates this category, passenger transport remains a more significant employer. The COVID-19 crisis struck a severe blow to passenger transport, disrupting its seasonality and leading to a substantial sales drop of 78% for 2020. However, a hopeful resurgence was anticipated in the summer of 2021. Freight demand shows particular preference for specific goods types, with ores, peat, and extractive products dominating the river transport segment.

While these classes form a large portion of river transport, they account for a lesser share of the total inland freight, indicating the targeted nature of river freight's utility. It's no surprise that with over 45% of the nation’s river transport, the Seine Basin leads in freight traffic across the French waterways. The dominance of the Seine Basin correlates to how the Autonomous Port of Paris overshadows other river ports in terms of traffic volume. Price trends in river freight transportation have remained stable with less than a 1% increase, contrasting with a notable.

Notable Contributors in the French River Transport Market

The French river transport market, while facing the ebb and flow of economic and environmental challenges, is graced with significant players that help navigate through these currents. The segment, though in need of rejuvenation, is an amalgamation of freight and passenger transport services provided by some established entities.

  • CMA CGM stands tall as a heavyweight in river freight transport. Known for its global reach in shipping and logistics, this conglomerate has expanded its services to accommodate inland waterway freight transport, thus contributing to the ecological transition goals by offering a greener alternative for moving goods.
  • Next in line is Fluviofeeder Armement (Marfret), a significant entity providing specialized maritime and river logistics solutions. Their commitment to connecting internal waterways with sea routes showcases their strategic role in unifying different modes of transport for seamless service delivery.
  • Compagnie Fluviale de Transport (Sogestran) is another key player that enriches the market with its diversified inland navigation services. With a robust presence, Sogestran upholds the reliability and economic benefits of river transport, supporting the industry's growth by catering to freight's demands with efficiency.
  • When it comes to passenger transport, Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches is synonymous with the iconic Parisian experience. Offering tourists a leisurely glide along the Seine, their cruises provide an unparalleled viewing pleasure of the capital's architectural marvels, contributing to the city's charm and tourism appeal.
  • In unison with its peers, Vedettes de Paris seeks to provide tourists with memorable experiences cruising through the heart of Paris. Their services reflect a combination of pleasure boating and cultural exploration, adding to the attractiveness of river passenger transport.

Together, these key market players typify the existing structure of France's river transport system, striking a balance between commercial pragmatism and touristic allure. As they continue to operate, policy initiatives and future investments in France's waterways could pave the way for the evolution of this quintessential sector.

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Summary and extracts

1 Market overview

1.1 Definition and scope of study

River transport covers all travel on inland waterways, i.e. canals, navigable waterways and rivers. It is also possible to navigate on waterways that have been developed (artificial or canalized rivers in particular).

There are two "types" of river transport:

1. River passenger transport, which includes :

  • River tourism, including cruises and excursions;
  • Pleasure boating;
  • Public transport, on specific sites such as Lake Annecy, which remains marginal today.

2. Freight transport:

  • This mainly concerns major waterways, and is both economical and reliable;
  • Suitable for moving large volumes of goods;
  • Avoids the congestion often encountered on roads.

Today, river freight transport is a key mode of transport for achieving the ecological transition objectives set by governments, although it has been in decline for some years. To remedy this, a number of measures have been put in place, including an increase in the number of waterways and financial investment by the French government in Voies Navigables de France (VNF).

France is the European country with the longest river network to date, with no less than 8,500 km of waterways, but it is also one of the countries that makes the least use of this network for goods transport, with only 3% of total traffic passing through the river network. However, there has been clear growth in the volume transported by waterways, with a growth rate of 20% in 2019 compared with 2018. This is a sector that is regaining momentum, and the economic stakes for the future are high.

1.2 European river freight transport on the decline

inland waterway freight transport in Europe is experiencing a slight decline. Indeed, after an insignificant evolution until ****, the quantity of goods had an unusual decrease in **** of *.*% confirmed by a year **** also relatively weak.

evolution of goods transported by inland waterways European Union, **** - ****, thousand tonnes Source: ****

germany and the Netherlands ...

1.3 The French market

waterborne transport in France includes maritime, coastal and river transport. It is important to note that river transport represents a very small part of waterborne transport in France. In fact, the total sales of river transport corresponded to only *% of the sales of waterborne transport in France. It is also important ...

1.4 Impact of the Covid-19 crisis

As we saw earlier, the health crisis has had a major impact on passenger transport in France. The following graph shows the extent to which the seasonality of activity has been disrupted in ****. Note that the graph is based on ***, taking the average level reached in **** to be equal to ***. In ...

2 Demand analysis

2.1 Demand by type of goods transported

it's important to note that river freight transport in France accounts for a very small share of all inland freight transport in France. In fact, the majority of freight is transported by road, well ahead of rail, which itself accounts for a much larger share than river transport. It is interesting ...

2.2 Decline in international river freight transport

The French river network is also used to transport goods traded internationally. The figure below shows that the latter has been declining slightly since ****, while domestic freight traffic is showing a slight upward trend. Thus, a gap is slowly opening up between these quantities of goods.

Transport on the French network France, ...

2.3 Demand for river passenger transport on the decline

the breakdown of household consumption of transport services shows that sea and river transport represent a very small share of total passenger transport activity in France (***). It is interesting to note that, despite the sharp drop in air traffic in **** due to the health crisis, sea and river transport is the ...

3 Market structure

3.1 A high concentration of traffic on the widest lanes

A look at the typology of French-licensed vessels shows that vessels weighing between *** and *** tonnes and those over *,*** tonnes account for more than half of the total. Fleet of licensed boats France, ****, number of boats Source: SDES This distribution is strongly correlated with that of the waterway network. Waterways suitable for ...

3.2 Freight traffic on the Seine

a study of the distribution of transport by river basin shows a clear lead for the Seine over all the other river basins, which have been at relatively similar levels since ****. The Seine accounted for over **% of French river transport in ****. For almost all river basins, we can see stagnation, with ...

4 Offer analysis

4.1 Price trends for river freight transport

The price of transporting goods generally depends on the volume and weight of the goods, the distance of the journey, and the mode of transport used. Freight and warehousing price indices can be used to visualize the dynamics of price trends for the various means of transporting goods. We can see ...

4.2 River passenger transport offer

Passenger river transport in France can be broken down into three sub-sections: promenade cruises, cruises with accommodation and urban mobility[***].

The promenade cruise corresponds to a trip lasting from one hour to a full day. This tourist offer is mainly available in major French cities. Services range from simple promenade cruises ...

4.3 Development of electric river transport

The main industry dynamic in France is the development of electric boats, with Green River Cruises, for example, launching its first ***% electric tour boat in October ****. The company now offers several types of cruises on the Seine with "Between friends" or "Between colleagues" formulas ranging from a one-hour half-tour of the ...

5 Regulations

5.1 Tax advantages for river transport

When transporting goods by inland waterway, prices must be set according to :

The services provided by the carrier; The length of time the vehicle is immobilized during loading and unloading; The time required to transport the freight; Fuel costs.

France has a number of tax provisions specific to domestic shipping.

Article ...

5.2 Plan to revive France's waterways

French waterways have been the focus of several development projects.

The French government sees river transport as an ecological objective. For example, the public body Voies Navigables de France, responsible for the national river network, will benefit from over *** million euros to be invested in modernization work in **** and ****. This organization ...

6 Positioning the players

6.1 Segmentation

  • Marfret
  • Compagnie fuviale de transport - CFT
  • Vedettes de Paris
  • Compagnie des bateaux mouches
  • Transdev
  • E2F
  • Haropa Port - Port du Havre
  • Sogestran Group
  • VNF Voies Navigables de France
  • Coalis
  • Naviland Cargo
  • Viking cruises
  • Château Coliving
  • Chez Nestor (Dovevivo)
  • Colivys
  • Ecla (Uxco Group)
  • Habyt Common
  • Hife Coliving
  • La Roche Cotard Coliving
  • Mansiones Coliving
  • Sharies Coliving
  • Tendoors Coliving
  • Urban campus
  • Uxco Group
  • Woodeum (Altarea)
  • Port de Colmar Neuf-Brisach
  • Rhenus logistics
  • ULS Urban Logistic Solutions
  • Port de Dunkerque
  • Touax

List of charts presented in this market study

  • Evolution of the quantity of goods transported by inland waterways
  • Evolution of the distribution of internal freight transport means
  • Inland waterway freight transport in the European Union
  • Water transport market
  • Passenger water transport market in France
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Latest news

Transdev yields to the lure of international business - 20/03/2024
  • -Total sales in 2023: up 21% to 9.33 billion euros
  • - Share of business in France in 2023: 29.3% of sales, versus 35.2% in 2022
  • - Acquisition of First Transit in the United States: adds 1.1 billion in sales
  • - Share of US business in 2023: 25%, versus 15% last year
  • - Investment in France in 2022: 135 million, rising to 250 million in 2023
  • - Net profit: stable at 20 million euros
  • - Change in network ridership after the health crisis: France virtually equivalent to pre-Covid (-2%), Germany +15%, Ile-de-France -9% compared to 2019, Netherlands -20%, Stockholm region -16%, United States -25%
Transdev's plan for the Marseille-Toulon-Nice TER line - 24/11/2023

Opening up regional trains to competition

  • The new train will run on the Marseille-Toulon-Nice line from July 2025.
  • Transdev's ridership objectives: to increase annual passenger numbers on the Marseille-Toulon-Nice line from 3.4 million to 5.5 million in the medium term.
  • The region has written Alstom a cheque for 250 million to purchase sixteen Regio 2N Omneo trainsets, and will pay Transdev 50 million a year to operate the line and another 50 million to build a new rolling stock maintenance site in Nice.
  • The Caisse des Dépôts subsidiary, which will operate the route for ten years (2025-2035), will provide 15 round trips between Marseille and Nice, twice as many as today.
  • Two Regio 2N Omneo trainsets attached to each other will offer 800 seats, including 100 on folding seats, compared with 600 today.
  • transdev is beginning to build up its team, which will comprise 180 to 200 employees to operate this line.

River logistics: ULS aims to increase its number of home ports - 30/08/2023
  • ULS generates sales of 1.1 million euros with 31 employees.
  • The company started in Strasbourg in 2020, moving to Lyon in 2022, then Mulhouse in 2023.
  • 22 cities in France have been identified as potential markets for expansion.
  • ULS has a shipyard in Portugal to develop standardized boats.
  • The transport capacity of their boats is 680 pallets.
  • ULS has identified 39 kilometers of small-gauge waterways in the Strasbourg metropolitan area for expansion.
  • The company is developing inland waterway logistics for shipyards, in collaboration with other companies such as FEHR.
CMA CGM reprend les activités logistiques du groupe Bolloré pour 4,65 milliards d'euros - 24/05/2023
Transdev returns to profit - 29/03/2023
  • - Sales: 7.7 billion euros
  • - Countries: France (35.2%), Germany (17.2%), USA (14.9%)
  • - Passengers transported: 8.8 million
  • - Electric buses: 2000
  • - Transport sector: Urban (46.7%), Interurban (29.7%), Rail (13%)
  • - Net income: 20 million euros
  • - Net debt: 1134 million euros
  • - Impact of energy costs: 82 million euros
  • - Driver recruitment: 4000
Transdev appointed by Ile de France Mobilités to operate the first cable car in the Paris region - 15/12/2022
  • Transdev acquired the Ludis group, leader in urban transport in France and Belgium, in May 2017
  • 19,000 employees in 45 countries
  • The gondola lift will be 4.5 kilometers long and will link Créteil to Villeneuve-Saint-Georges via Limeil-Brévannes and Valenton in five stations, in 17 minutes

Companies quoted in this study

This study contains a complete overview of the companies in the market, with the latest figures and news for each company. :

Compagnie fuviale de transport - CFT
Vedettes de Paris
Compagnie des bateaux mouches
Haropa Port - Port du Havre
Sogestran Group
VNF Voies Navigables de France
Naviland Cargo

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