Apart from its captive markets, such as iron ore, coal, sand and gravel and other dry bulk, inland navigation has shown to be competitive in the transport of maritime containers. Many inland terminals have been developed in Europe, most of them with individual services to maritime ports. However, there is more potential for inland water transport to increase its modal share: continental cargo flows. Direct road transport is the easiest option for these flows, but if organised well, inland navigation can provide a cost-efficient solution. Determining factors for the success of such a shift are the amount of cargo handlings involved and the pre- and end haulage.
In this study, direct road transport was compared to inland navigation for three different levels of efficiency of road transport with respect to empty runs. The assessment to determine the potential of continental cargo transport by inland navigation resulted in a multimodal evaluation model that comprised all waterborne regions in Europe that are located closely to a CEMT-IV waterway and all intermodal terminals where loading and unloading of container barges can take place. All transport options are evaluated, to determine the best intermodal solution.
A pre-assessment of the current transport flows by truck over distances more than 150 kilometres between regions that are directly connected or at most within 100 kilometres of the waterway network, indicated a maximum potential of 261,612,205 tonnes that can be containerised and transferred to inland navigation.
More detailed analysis with transport models, taking into account inland navigation transport costs and the amount of pre- and end-haulage that is required as well as the amount of handlings, compared to the costs of direct trucking, indicated a potential between 30 million tonnes and 207 million tonnes. In the most likely scenario, 87 million tonnes can be transported more cost-efficient by IWT. This would mean costs savings to the industry of € 899 million per year, equalling 10% of the total costs.
The investigation shows that Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands is a region with high potential for continental cargo transport over water. Return cargo can be found along the Upper-Rhine, in Alsace-Lorraine (France) and Baden-Württemberg (Germany). Other potentially interesting regions are Flanders, Berlin and its surroundings as well as destinations along the Middle and Upper-Danube.