Market Perspectives for Inland Waterway Shipping in Intra-European Intermodal Transport

Market Perspectives for Inland Waterway Shipping in Intra-European Intermodal Transport


T Platz, Rijkswaterstaat, DVK, NL


Three case studies have been carried out to evaluate the market potential of intermodal inland waterway transport other than for maritime containers to/from seaports.


In the past few decades inland waterway transport has opened up new markets, such as roll on-roll off (ro-ro) services for road vehicles (cars, trucks, tractors) and trailers, lift on-lift off (lo-lo) traffic for maritime containers, waste, and the carriage of oversized or heavy goods. Especially the transport of maritime containers, in the hinterland of the container handling seaports in the North Sea range has gained strong momentum.

However, there exists almost no combined transport in intra-European continental traffic. This means that inland waterway transport on European rivers and canals has not benefited yet from the continuous growth of intra-European (continental) trade resulting predominantly from European integration processes ? in spite of its high reputation in the maritime container business.
Now, given the fact that many experts do see a high potential for an integration of inland navigation into continental intermodal transport chains, how can such a continental combined transport system be achieved? Existing studies have one thing in common: they focus on certain fields of action and certain aspects. Some concentrate on technology, some on logistics, while others look more closely at the possible impact of governmental policy. In addition, most of the work is only conceptual, while real practical demonstration projects are rare. Many of the concepts (proposed solutions) remain on paper.
Therefore, our study (which will result in a doctoral thesis 1) takes the challenge to specify a more comprehensive interdisciplinary theoretical framework for understanding continental intermodal waterborne transport. The central question is:
?Which are the critical success and failure factors that explain innovative service development in continental intermodal waterborne transport? How do they interact? How do shippers and freight forwarders rank the cost and service parameters?. How can the theoretical model be verified empirically on the basis of case studies??

In our analysis we principally look at the problem on a micro level and share the position of the single economic actors (logistical deciders of shippers or freight forwarding companies) who are in charge of the modal choice. But the point of view will not be purely from the company?s perspective: for parts of the research, it might be sensible to take the position of a whole transport/supply chain because today, competition not only occurs between single companies, but between whole supply chains, and, as transport chains represent parts of these supply chains, also between transport chains (meso level perspective). As the decisions of the micro-economic actors and the competitiveness of the supply chains are influenced by the political framework, in certain stages of the analysis it may be necessary to look at the topic at the macro level as well.

For the empirical verification we have carried out three case studies. One of a successful case, one of an unsuccessful venture, and finally one to carry out an independent assessment of the success and failure factors found in the two earlier case studies.

The successful case deals with the ?floating motorway? on the Danube between Passau (DE) and Vidin (BG). It started in 1982 as the first of its kind in Europe, carrying trucks, trailers and semi-trailers on Ro/Ro ships. The floating motorway serves transit traffic crossing Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia and Romania. At its start it was run as a joint venture of the Bayerischer Lloyd and the Bulgarian state-owned company SO-MAT, but after the fall of communism SO-MAT was privatized and later became fully controlled by the transport company Willy Betz.

The unsuccessful case study deals with the container service ?Danube Combined Services? that was in operation between Deggendorf, Enns and Budapest for some months in 2001. DCS was designed as a regular door-to-door container liner service along the Danube river, connecting industrial areas in Bavaria, Upper Austria and Hungary.

The validation case deals with the hinterland carriage of continental containers by inland waterway between locations in the United Kingdom (UK) or Ireland (IE) and places along the Rhine corridor. There is a large number of short sea services between the continent and the United Kingdom and Ireland, using container ships as well as Ro/Ro ships. The majority of break-bulk flows using inland waterway transport on that corridor is transported via Rotterdam to North Rhine-Westphalia.

The cases have been studied using a consistent research framework and by interviewing a number of experts involved in the operations.

1 PhD Supervisors Prof. Dr. Toon van der Hoorn (Dutch Ministry of Transport/University of Amsterdam) and Prof. Dr. Ir. Rob van der Heijden (Radboud University, Nijmegen, NL)


Association for European Transport