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February 18, 2013 / landscapeiskingston

“It’s time to make the added value of inland navigation more visible.”

Previously, the EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas has called for more attention to be given at EU and national level to the “added value” of Europe’s inland waterways.  He said the potential economic benefit of this type of transport was often overlooked and the potential of Europe’s massive network of inland waterways was yet to be “fully exploited”, adding, “It is time to make the added value of inland navigation more visible.”

Transporting goods by water was, he argued, “environmentally-friendly and safe”, in some cases more so than by road and rail.  “I am personally convinced about the sustainability and benefits of inland waterways and the European commission strongly supports this mode of transport. But, of course, we have to be realistic and remember that the market share for this type of transport is still very low.”

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Currently, it is estimated that only three to six per cent of goods in Europe are transported by inland waterway, the lowest figure since the 1990s.  Kallas said, “This illustrates the huge potential – but one which is yet to be exploited – that inland waterways offer. Unfortunately, despite its many assets inland waterways suffer from a range of problems at present, including lack of capital resources, a shortage of skilled labour, relatively poor maintenance and a general lack of awareness.”

His comments were largely echoed by the European Forum of Inland Ports (EFIP), which  called on EU transport ministers to “integrate urban freight transport and urban logistics issues” into EU transport policy.  EFIP says it fears that the “urban mobility” debate at EU level will be too much focused on passenger transport issues.  EFIP director Isabelle Ryckbost said, “It would be a missed opportunity if the council is only debating passenger and public transport issues.  Growing urbanisation means not only a challenge for passenger transport but also and even more importantly a growing demand of goods to be delivered in and out of towns and a need for urban logistics. To be successful, the EU debate on urban mobility must integrate all aspects and all players. If goods cannot move well in and out of towns, neither will the people.  Inland ports can contribute in finding sustainable solutions for the distribution of goods to and in the town.  Having an inland port in your town should be considered as an asset for the town, however too often, inland urban ports are seen as a disturbance.  Local authorities prefer to reserve the river banks for panoramic, real estate or recreational purposes. But by doing this, cities risk giving away part of the solution to their congestion problems. It is time to raise the alarm.”

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