A new wave for the inland waterways: Palletized goods
Inland waterways are distinguishing characteristics in our landscape. Their waters often represent physical borders between regions while simultaneously connecting many of our cities. Moreover, their course determined the location of those historic cities, and where missing, canals between cities and regions were excavated by men. For centuries, inland waterways represented the main mode for freight transport on medium and long distance on the landside. As an example, one can think of the Hansa-network. The Hansa was a commercial confederation of European merchant guilds who dominated the – mainly Baltic – inter-city trade performed with vessels in the seventeenth century. As freight transport by rail and road gained interest in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the use of inland waterways decreased, especially in urban settings. Only uniform, large volumes of bulk remained to be transported by vessels. Bulk therefore constitutes the symbolic first wave of the modern inland waterway transport. Even nowadays, bulk goods still represent the largest share in the volumes transported via inland waterways. Evolutions within the transport market of bulk goods are thus by consequence of great importance for the inland waterway sector. However, for large, uniform volumes of both liquid and solid bulk requiring transport over relatively long distances, there is no transport mode able to really compete with vessel transport. During the last decades, this favourable market position of inland waterway transport increasingly shifted bulk volumes to vessels. In the future, different European inland waterway and port authorities expect even larger bulk volumes on their waterways, despite current dependency on the declining heavy industry in Europe.