Decarbonising deliveries with smart waterways


The Smart Track 4 Waterway project proposes a management solution for shipment by inland waterway transport, providing small stakeholders with a simpler and cheaper access to secure data

Prioritising clean transportation over traditional road transport is an obvious solution to the pollution issue from the transport sector in Europe. Only this requires solid investments in innovative technologies, infrastructure, maintenance, and time. In North-West Europe, there is, however, an already well-established transport network that is cleaner, low-maintenance and made available by nature.

“Waterways are a very eco-friendly mode of transportation as it emits three times less C02 than road transport. It also reduces congestions and accidents from roads”, says Yves de Blic, Project Manager at Multitel.

Despite the advantages provided by inland waterways, there is no tool proposing end to end seamless visibility dedicated to shipment by waterway transportation in North-West Europe at the moment. In addition, the alternative maritime transportation is a lot more expensive to be considered by small businesses who need to deliver their goods at competitive fares.

“Waterways are a very eco-friendly mode of transportation as it emits three times less C02 than road transport. It also reduces congestions and accidents from roads.”

Yves de Blic, Project Manager at Multitel

 

There is, therefore, great opportunity to inland waterways, particularly as 85 % of European river freight is concentrated in NWE territory.

Yves de Blic leads a partnership of stakeholders – including shippers, logistics operators, ship owners, ports and terminals, waterway administrations – that proposes a management solution for shipment by inland waterway transport, providing small stakeholders with a simpler and cheaper access to secure data, and enabling them to share a hierarchical track & trace service of shipment, complementing the River Information Services, which tracks vessels.

Smart Track 4 Waterway, or simply ST4W, has tested, validated and rolled out these tools during the project with the support of various partners. The promotion of cooperation between waterway actors and their supply chain partners via the project enables more companies to make use of waterway transportation, and consequently to reduce CO2 emissions of their logistics operations. More than 200 water journeys have been done during the project lifetime. With the expected modal transfer from road to water transportation, the partnership expects to save 40 000 T of CO2 by the tenth year after the project.

“It is something quite new. Speaking with our Flemish, Parisian, or German colleagues gives us more insights on best practices. We learn from each other and see how we can tackle difficulties and new visions all together”, says Drs. Ferenc Szilagyi, General Manager at Ports de Lille.

CO2 emissions from the transport sector

It is no breaking news that decarbonising transport is challenging. Despite all recent measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fuel combustion - including domestic and international aviation, road transport, railways and domestic navigation, the transport sector remains one of the top polluters in the European Union and was behind over a quarter of the EU’s emissions in 2019. Following a period of steady growth from 2013 to 2019, the sector’s emissions dropped substantially in 2020 during the pandemic. Preliminary estimates of emissions in 2021 indicate a rebound in transport emissions of 7.7% last year.

“The added value we try to give is to make place for such experimentation to take place. This means having our infrastructure, equipment, barges (flat-bottomed inland waterway vessel and our multimodal hub called CMDU available. The project enables us to really try out and to be a real test bed for urban logistics in the greater Lille area”, continues Drs. Ferenc Szilagyi

Addressing the mental shift before the modal shift

Transport by barge is predominantly used for large volumes. ST4W activities focused also on raising awareness of shippers of palletised freight to send their traditional freight from road to water. However, these flows are often small and highly diversified volumes, loaded, transported, and delivered mainly by SMEs, with complex distribution schemes. Effective logistics is essential to ensure cargo consolidation, requiring an accurate synchronisation between operators and a collaborative approach. This is where the results from ST4W are essential to facilitate organisational and behavioural change from logistics professionals and provide the tools required for efficient, simple and low-cost communications using worldwide standards.

 “As part of the project we organised interviews, workshops, demonstrations in order to let people discuss and allow them to first operate the mental shift before the modal shift”, explains Yves de Blic.

ST4W aims now to capitalise on its results together with other Interreg projects, namely IWTS 2.0 (Interreg North Sea), CCP 21 (Interreg NWE) and to better connect inland waterway transport with multimodal last-mile city logistics digitally using the tools developed by the project.

ST4W in numbers

ERDF

2.28m

Total budget

3.8m

Expected savings 10 years after the end of the project

40.000

tonnes of CO2

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