Inland shipping can make chains greener
What potential does inland shipping have as a sustainable transport mode? bremenports invited nine Marine Transport and Port Management students to investigate this topic as part of their course module “Maritime Project Study”. The results now provide a basis for the new website project-iwts20.eu.
The students from the college in Elsfleth presented the results of their project to Robert Howe, Managing Director of bremenports, and Dr Lars Stemmler, Head of International Projects, at the Sail City Hotel in Bremerhaven. Howe commented, “Inland shipping has much more potential than would appear from its current share of the transport chain. This project has provided many new ideas for improving this situation and the project work has delivered excellent results.”
Research findings summed up in a scientific study
The project was supervised by Professor Falk von Seck, who holds the chair for Sustainable Logistics and Transport Management at the Maritime Shipping and Logistics Faculty of Jade University of Applied Sciences in Elsfleth: “A project like this is highly attractive for students and also a wonderful opportunity for them to tackle such challenges in practice. In other words, a win-win situation for both sides.”
The students’ research findings are summed up in a scientific study which forms the basis for the contents of the relaunched website project-iwts20.eu.
Recognising the potential of inland shipping
The students also produced two videos which highlight the potential of inland shipping in which decision-makers from inland shipping, freight forwarders and port management companies have the chance to state their opinions in face-to-face interviews: they make it clear that inland shipping plays a key role when it comes to making transport chains ‘greener’. “To make the most of these advantages, however, it is vital to reduce the negative competitive attitudes of the different transport modes and create a positive overall economic framework,” explains von Seck.
The students from Jade University of Applied Sciences took the sustainability goals of the United Nations as the benchmark for their investigations, which clearly revealed that inland shipping has significant potential, especially as regards climate protection. A modal shift from truck to barge is particularly advisable on long-haul routes and in areas where the motorways suffer from congestion. Although barges travel more slowly, they are more dependable and consistent. Trucks emit 103 grams of CO2 per t/km, which is roughly ten times higher than a barge. A modern barge and pusher tug assembly with four lighters, for instance, can carry the equivalent of 280 truckloads of 25 tonnes each.
Long working hours on board barges
The working conditions in the inland shipping business, unfortunately, are not as good as for truckers: the road transport sector is bound by legally prescribed breaks and maximum hours at the wheel and appropriate infrastructure is available, offering dedicated parking and washroom facilities. The reality in the inland shipping world, however, is different: the regulations on working hours state that a bargeman with annual working hours of approx. 180 days on board is permitted to work a maximum of 31 consecutive days on board the vessel. During that time, it is not unusual for them to work up to 14 hours a day. The students therefore came to the conclusion that this work-life balance makes it difficult to find new recruits for this sector.
Inland shipping master plan to address the challenges
Moreover, inland shipping is facing substantial challenges in terms of investments and infrastructure refurbishment: locks need maintenance and repairs and have to be adapted to cope with growing vessel dimensions. The clearance under bridges has to be raised to enable the transport of project cargo and containers. Shore power connections for barges at the ports and at mooring places are just as necessary as the availability of crane capacities to handle project cargo at the inland waterway ports. The federal German government has drawn up an “Inland Shipping Master Plan” which focuses on “Infrastructure”, “Eco-Friendliness and Fleet Structure” and “Digitisation” in order to boost multimodal transport chains and improve the future prospects and attractiveness of inland shipping as a whole.
The project is part of the EU programme “Interreg North Sea Region #IWTS 2.0” in which bremenports is participating. The objective of this EU project is to promote inland shipping in Northern Europe.