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June 26, 2012 / landscapeiskingston

The European Case for Inland Waterways

What does the European Commission want to achieve ?

In relation to freight transport Europe’s inland waterway transport could play an important role for the transport of goods in Europe.

More than 37 000 kilometres of waterways connect hundreds of cities and industrial regions. Some 20 out of 27 Member States have inland waterways, 12 of which have an interconnected waterway networks. The potential for increasing the modal share of inland waterway transport is, however, significant. Compared to other modes of transport which are often confronted with congestion and capacity problems, inland waterway transport is characterized by its reliability, its low environmental impact and its major capacity for increased exploitation.   The European Commission aims to promote and strengthen the competitive position of the inland waterway transport in the transport system, and to facilitate its integration into the intermodal logistic chain.

Inland waterway transport is a competitive alternative to road and rail transport. In particular; it offers an environment friendly alternative in terms of both energy consumption and noise and gas emissions. Its energy consumption per km/ton of transported goods is approximately 17% of that of road transport and 50% of rail transport. Its noise and gaseous emissions are modest. In addition, inland waterway transport ensures a high degree of safety, in particular when it comes to the transportation of dangerous goods. Finally it contributes to the decongestion of the overloaded road network in densely populated regions.  According to recent studies, the total external costs of inland navigation (in terms of accidents, congestion, noise emissions, air pollution and other environmental impacts) are seven times lower than those of road transport.


County Administrative Board of Värmland have identified the following as an example of good practice – “Co-operate: Freight Traffic”.  Shipping has existed in one form or another throughout the existence of the inhabitants in the Lake Vänern area. Today the canal locks in Trollhättan determine the maximum size of vessel that can enter Lake Vänern. The vessels can be up to 88m and can carry around 4000T. Around 2700 freight vessels pass through the locks at Trollhättan each year. There are 11 ports on Lake Vänern. Six of these are part of Vänerhamn AB: a port company that was set up in 1994, of which 90 percent is owned by its neighbouring municipalities.

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In total, more than 2.6 million tonnes of freight are handled every year on average. Of all the port facilities, Gruvön and Lidköping handle the largest volumes. Slightly oversimplifying, you could state that pulp wood, timber, petroleum products, pulp and paper are the main freight goods handled in the north of Lake Vänern, while the south handles bulk freight such as fodder, fertilizer, salt, alloys and coke.

“We are in the midst of transferring the classification of our body of water from inland ocean to inland waterway. This would bring great positive impact on the capacity of freight transport within our waterways – reducing costs for industry and decongesting the railway and highways from lorries.   Lake Vänern doesn’t belong to only one person; it is a unique water and nature resource to all the inhabitants living in the area. Therefore, it is important to have a wide cooperation with representatives from different fields that collaborate to create a sustainable environment for future generations.  Thanks to the Waterways Forward project we gained an opportunity to learn from other countries’ best practices, and by so improving our own knowledge.”  

Source:  County Administrative Board of Värmland and partner in the Waterways Forward project.   


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