The European Commission intends to look more closely into the question of logistics in connection with European inland waterways. "Waterways cannot be an autonomous mode of transport. They have to be integrated with other modes," it explained at a meeting of the EP Committee on Transport (TRAN), on 9 January. TRAN held a hearing on the Naiades II programme, presented last September to boost inland waterway transport, whose modal share has decreased steadily compared with road transport.
The entire sector - skippers, inland ports, waterways, etc - supports that message. "Waterway navigation forms part of a whole, a network. But things are often organised separately between rail, road and waterways," explained Erich Staake of the Alliance for European Logistics (AEL). Inland waterway transport infrastructures in the EU are not sufficiently interconnected today and many waterways are not connected to any logistics centres. This is nonetheless an imperative for the sector. The determination to build the Trans-European Transport Network on the basis of major transport corridors - which include several modes - is expected to help things evolve. "Inland waterway transport should be seen as a partner to rail, for example, not a competitor," said Staake, CEO of the port of Duisburg in Germany. He knows the reality of the situation: in 2003 and 2009, low water levels in the Rhine obliged the port to organise its service to BASF by railway. "For companies to trust inland waterway transport, it is essential to be able to organise this type of cooperation."
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With improved intermodal connections and the elimination of bottlenecks and missing links, innovation...