- Watertruck is a new, innovative way of transporting goods that aims to reactivate small inland waterways by introducing a new concept for inland waterway transport.
- Innovative concept: the overall objective is to enhance the interconnectivity and interoperability between the TEN-T core network and smaller inland waterways. Watertruck+ is articulated around transport units (barges and push boats) that sail in convoys and can be coupled and decoupled in a fast and flexible way. Loading and unloading are decoupled from the navigation itself, thus enhancing the service ratio on the smaller waterways.
- Innovative design: Watertruck+ provides a universal standard design for various types of small inland barges that can be modified to satisfy the operational requirement of a specific goods flow (cargo flow), propulsion, hatches, lifting (pumping) systems, a small crane, etc. can be added or removed without having a major impact on the overall hull structure. The use of alternative materials (i.e. aluminum, composite) will be examined in order to construct and operate the barges in the most efficient way so that the unit life-cycle costs are limited as much as possible.
- Low emissions: the choice of fuel type will be examined, with the aim being to decrease the barges’ noxious emissions. Alternative fuel types such as LNG, CNG, hydrogen, hybrid, will be considered and determined during the project, as well as the propulsion type. CO2 emissions will be reduced by at least 25% and the type of fuel and propulsion system to be used will at least comply with the EURO VI norm of road transport.
- Flexible: Watertruck+ ensures maximum flexibility of operations while maintaining maximum regional coverage by connecting small inland waterways with the TEN-T network.
- Operational and economic viability: The previous Interreg project Watertruck has demonstrated the operational and economic viability of the Watertruck concept. This study has been included in six demonstration projects in Belgium (Flanders and Brussels), the Netherlands and France. The Watertruck+ potential in the regions of West-Vlaanderen (Flanders) and Kempen (Campine, Flanders) amounted to 3 million tons (of which at least half is modal shift), while the modal shift potential in the Netherlands (Northern Brabant) amounted to 0.4 million tons.
- Modal shift: WT+ encourages a modal shift including new flows which would otherwise have gone via road, and which makes inland waterway transport competitive to road transport. Also, new investment programs are included (avoidance of reverse modal shift).
By decoupling loading from unloading, on-board staff will only be sailing and no longer have to wait until the receiver has loaded or unloaded. In the meantime, the staff can operate on other barges.
No accommodation also means optimizing payload and efficiency.
Carrying capacity Watertruck:
compared to Spits
compared to Kempenaar
|Cargo weight (mt)
|Cargo volume (m³)
Within the Watertruck concept, an eight-hour work schedule can be implemented. At the end of his shift, the shipper can go home. It is no longer necessary to live on board for several weeks, thus making the profession more attractive for younger skippers.
The Watertruck+ project aims to achieve a solution that is complementary to the existing inland waterways activities. The aim is to equip the market with business cases for a large European fleet of vessels by rolling out the Watertruck concept in various European regions.
- The aim of the project is to use the new Watertrucks on freight flows that are currently transported by road and on new flows, thereby increasing the market share of inland waterways in the European modal split. Watertruck+ wants to contribute to moving more goods from the over congested European roads towards the available capacity on the waterways, increasing the throughput on TEN-T corridors and unlocking the economic potential in regions with small waterways.
- Lower CO2 emissions by at least 25% in comparison to the emissions of the existing inland waterways fleet, and to achieve a noxious substances emission level that at least satisfies the emission criteria of EURO VI standards for road transport, or equivalent.
- Currently, investors and banks do not have a predictable residual value of the vessel after x years of service. This residual value is heavily influenced by the specifications of the ship, its age, the steel market and availability (as there are only a limited number of ships on the market, excess supply or shortage is a relatively frequent occurrence).
- This means that investors are reluctant to finance new vessels. Loan conditions are quite firm, requiring a substantial equity deposit by the operator and having a relatively short term. In contrast, operators frequently have little equity and are looking at an operational return in the medium or long term.
- The emergence of a fleet of 500 interchangeable, comparable vessels will be a game changer. Residual value will become predictable so that the buying, selling and leasing of vessels will become easier. This will enable operators to adapt their commercial offers to the time frame of the shippers’ RFQs. It will also attract a different type of investor: those who see inland shipping as a financial opportunity, without actually getting involved in the shipping operations.