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Entwicklungszentrum für Schiffstechnik und Transportsysteme e.V.

Inland Waterway Transportation in northern and northeastern Germany – Challenges and Opportunities

Analysis of the challenges and opportunities of inland waterway transportation in northern and northeastern Germany – recommendations for action for industry and policy-making

According to current forecasts, significant growth in cargo traffic is expected in the coming years. Inland navigation will also benefit from this development, albeit at a disproportionately low rate. Overall, the development of inland navigation in recent years has fallen short of expectations. The strongest growth on almost all routes has been recorded by road-based transportation for years. This is particularly true in the study area. One reason for the unsatisfactory development is the inadequate expansion of the infrastructure and the insufficient use of opportunities arising from digitalisation. In addition, there have been other problems in recent years, such as more frequent and longer-lasting periods of low water and other extreme weather conditions.

In the medium to long term, the share of inland navigation in the transport volume is to be significantly increased, thus also contributing to climate and environmental protection. Therefore, it was necessary to identify problem areas and develop proposed solutions for the problems found.

As part of the study “Inland Navigation in Northern and North-Eastern Germany – Challenges and Perspectives” commissioned by Port of Hamburg Marketing together with the Elbe-Seitenkanal Alliance and the Elbe Alliance, the Development Centre for Ship Technology and Transport Systems (DST) together with the Bremen Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) and PLANCO Consulting from Essen examined inland navigation in the hinterland traffic of the Port of Hamburg. Inland navigation plays an important role for the economy in the federal states along the northern and north-eastern German waterways. In addition, the free capacities on the waterways, the increasing pressure for greening and the potential resulting from advancing digitalisation offer new opportunities for inland navigation.

In addition to market analyses, the investigation of employment and value-added effects, the determination of shift potential and infrastructure considerations, the study also includes concrete recommendations for action for the acting actors, for example with regard to the waterway infrastructure, possible measures to reduce emissions and the digitalisation of inland navigation. The main results of the study were presented to representatives of the press and the general public at a live online press conference.

The entire study as well as the recording of the online press conference can be accessed at the following web address: Inland Navigation Study.




  • Port of Hamburg Marketing
  • Bündnis Elbe-Seitenkanal e.V. (Lüneburg)
  • Elbe-Allianz e.V. (Magdeburg)


Point of contact:

Project management:


Collaborative partners:

The study was carried out within the framework of the COMBINE project, funded by the Interreg Baltic Sea Programme IV B.

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    Development Centre for
    Ship Technology and Transport Systems

    Oststr. 77
    47057 Duisburg

    Tel.: +49 (0)203 - 99 36 9 - 0
    Fax: +49 (0)203 - 99 36 9 - 70

    E-Mail: dst@dst-org.de