Inland shipping, and by extension multimodal goods transport, have been characterised by a series of problem areas and mismatches with the market. These challenges and problem areas manifest themselves mainly around the use of small waterways for transport purposes:
Young barge-skippers aspire to large vessels. They generate more cash flow and higher operating margins and attract financing by suppliers of credit more easily.
Increasing lack of small canal barges. Since the 70s of the last century no small vessels have been added to the fleet.
Living and working on a vessel. Today traditional inland navigation is done by a fleet of inland ships provided with living accommodation. The barge-skipper lives and works on the barge. This results in a rather closed environment that often accords to only a limited extent with the expectations of what is currently available on the job market.
Too low intake of labour. Supply does not meet demand.
Vital role of small waterways and small vessels. They act as satellites for the larger waterways. Numerous industrial shippers are located on smaller waterways and can only be supplied by vessels of up to 600 tonnes or 1350 tonnes. Small vessels are also necessary on larger waterways to serve industrial shippers with limited storage capacity.
Road congestion in and around cities. Truck traffic in the heart of big cities is becoming more and more of a problem.
Striving for the proposed modal split. Virtually all seaports in the so-called Hamburg-Le Havre range have set modal split objectives. Only increasing the potential of inland waterways and improved harmonisation between sea and inland transport can result in achievement of the modal split targets and better integrated logistics chains.