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Navigation intensity has been increasing in Europe since the 1960s both in terms of the volume of transported goods and average vessel size (Graf et al., 2016). Nowadays, there are more than 37 000 kilometres of European inland waterways spanning 20 Member States and connecting hundreds of cities and industrial sites (DG Mobility and Transport, 2019). The uses on inland waterways include navigation for transporting freight, transporting passengers and leisure. Most of the commercial goods transportation by inland ships in Europe concerns five countries: the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and Romania (EC, 2018). More than two-thirds of all goods of European inland waterways are carried on the river Rhine, which is the backbone of inland navigation in Europe (EPRS, 2014). The total volume of goods transported on European inland waterways is approximately 550 million tonnes. However, this equates only to around 6 % (in 2017) of the total volume of all goods transported in the EU (Eurostat, 2019).

In addition, inland waterways are used for water tourism, sports, fishing and angling, and recreational purposes. The recreational water use of navigable rivers can be of great economic significance in certain regions supporting several thousands of jobs in Europe (PIANC et al., 2004).

The infrastructure network of inland waterways includes the natural navigable rivers, artificial-built canals that link navigable rivers, and inland ports. European inland waterways are part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) which aims to integrate land, marine, and air transport networks throughout the European Community.

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