Milestones

Watertruck+ is a Connecting Europe Facility (CEF 2014) project running between 2014 and 2020, which aims at the gradual introduction of the Watertruck-concept.

This gradual introduction includes three steps:

1 Understanding the issues and providing a long-term solution

As a first step, which included interpreting the results of the Watertruck Interreg NWE project (2010-2014) and an intensive dialogue with major IWT stakeholders and the European Commission, current challenges were mapped and extensive efforts were made to provide the market with a concept and design that can provide a long-term solution in terms of operational viability, workforce stability and financial attractiveness.

2 Pilot phase

Introducing a small fleet of +/- 30 vessels, mostly barges suitable for CEMT I and II waterways, operators and shippers are engaged to invest in the concept. As 33 ships of this capacity range were annually phased out from the Belgian fleet in the first decade of this century, this investment will only serve to cushion the continuous decline of the European fleet.

Moreover, the flows contracted to be carried by the Watertruck+ partners consist primarily of flows which are either currently carried by road transport, or which are new.

From this pilot phase we will learn:

  • how the design can be optimized in terms of functionality and cost;
  • what the exact operational benefits are and how they translate into USPs for the concept;

The pilot phase will furthermore serve as a showcase to convince the market of the concept’s viability.

3 Roll-out of the concept

Bearing in mind the sector’s challenges and learning from the pilots’ results, the main objective of the Watertruck+ project is the gradual introduction of the concept on a large scale. This roll-out will be based on two focal points:

  • The concept’s economic parameters in terms of investment, payload and cost of operations, as derived from the pilot phase;
  • Bridging the investment gap.

This second point is key, as the current market structure is fragmented. Smaller, family-owned businesses fail to convince traditional financing channels to provide the means to invest in new equipment. On the other hand, major investors or guarantee mechanisms seem attainable yet are too large to deal with traditional SMEs. Watertruck+ aims to provide a platform, namely a financial toolbox, to bring these two together.

Combining economics and finance, Watertruck+’s goal is to encourage the take-up of the concept by the market, while being an enabler in the compilation of viable business cases for the investment in, and deployment of, a large scale of Watertrucks in Europe, securing IWT for smaller European waterways.

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