Inland Water Transportation in the US Industry Market Research Report Now Available from IBISWorld

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With consumers increasing their spending as the economy recovers, and manufacturers likewise boosting their production, demand for inland water transportation will get a boost. Additionally, rising fuel costs will lead to operators earning more money from fuel surcharges. However, the industry will experience some turbulence from rail transport providers, which are often seen as cheaper, faster and more environmentally friendly. For these reasons, industry research firm IBISWorld has added a report on the Inland Water Transportation industry to its growing industry report collection.

IBISWorld Market Research

IBISWorld Market Research

A rise in freight transportation and revenue from fuel surcharges will restore growth

The Inland Water Transportation industry dipped as the economy sank into recession. Over the past couple of years, consumers have decreased spending, and manufacturing industries have decreased production. Consequently, fewer goods have been transported along domestic inland waterways, decreasing revenue. In 2008, the industry dodged a bullet when rising fuel prices caused industry operators to impose fuel surcharges, which increased revenue. “However, rising revenue from fuel surcharges has not hit the industry's bottom line because fuel purchase costs for operators have increased as a result of the rising prices,” said IBISWorld industry analyst Lauren Setar. As fuel prices started to fall in 2009, fuel surcharges fell as well, decreasing revenue. Industry operators were also forced to cope with declining demand for services as demand for commodities dropped. Consequently, revenue fell 13.9% in 2009 alone, resulting in revenue decreasing at a marginal 0.8% annualized rate to $6.3 billion over the five years to 2012.

This industry operates in rivers, ports and other bodies of water in the United States. While operators provide passenger ferry services, transporting freight commodities generates the majority of revenue. In 2006 and 2007, demand for coal, petrochemicals and grain was particularly strong, and worldwide demand for commodities, especially from China, further fueled revenue growth. As a result of the recession, capacity utilization for industry companies fell, reducing operators' revenue, profit and efficiency. In 2012, industry revenue is expected to increase 3.2% due to an increase in freight transportation. Revenue growth is forecast to continue over the next five years. According to Setar, large operators have increasingly used contract labor to cope with the fluctuations in demand. Furthermore, many of them have acquired medium-size firms to increase capacity in certain regions. These factors helped boost profit to 14.0% of revenue in 2007; however, profit margins have since fallen to 11.7% due to reduced demand. IBISWorld estimates the number of firms operating in this industry has declined at an average annual rate of 1.3% in the five years to 2012 to 3,076.

The Inland Water Transportation industry has a moderate level of concentration, with the four largest players accounting for 59.6% of industry revenue in 2012. The relatively large proportion of small, family owned companies also contributes to the industry's moderate level of concentration. Industry concentration has increased over the past five years due to a number of acquisitions made by large players, particularly in the freight segment. In 2012, IBISWorld estimates that 49.8% of all firms employ fewer than five people and more than three quarters of industry companies have fewer than 20 employees. Over the past decade, the industry has consolidated at the top while growing at the bottom. With most of the major companies in the Inland Water Transportation industry acquiring other players in the past few years, the number of medium-size enterprises has dropped. Furthermore, many large players have increasingly used contractors to cope with shifts in demand. Many of these contract workers are non-employers. For more information, visit IBISWorld’s Inland Water Transportation in the US industry report page.

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IBISWorld industry Report Key Topics

This industry comprises establishments that provide inland water transportation of passengers and cargo on lakes, rivers or intracoastal waterways (except on the Great Lakes system).

Industry Performance
Executive Summary
Key External Drivers
Current Performance
Industry Outlook
Industry Life Cycle
Products & Markets
Supply Chain
Products & Services
Major Markets
Globalization & Trade
Business Locations
Competitive Landscape
Market Share Concentration
Key Success Factors
Cost Structure Benchmarks
Barriers to Entry
Major Companies
Operating Conditions
Capital Intensity
Key Statistics
Industry Data
Annual Change
Key Ratios

About IBISWorld Inc.
Recognized as the nation’s most trusted independent source of industry and market research, IBISWorld offers a comprehensive database of unique information and analysis on every US industry. With an extensive online portfolio, valued for its depth and scope, the company equips clients with the insight necessary to make better business decisions. Headquartered in Los Angeles, IBISWorld serves a range of business, professional service and government organizations through more than 10 locations worldwide. For more information, visit or call 1-800-330-3772.

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Gavin Smith
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