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4% increase in inland shipping on Flanders’ waterways

The figures for the year 2001 showed a further basic increase of 2.1%, with a total of 65 million tonnes being transported. Expressed in tonne-kilometres (i.e. the number of tonnes transported multiplied by the number of kilometres transported), the figures make even more impressive reading: 4.2 billion tonne-kilometres or a rise of some 4%. Not quite as spectacular as the record 16% in the year 2000, but encouraging nonetheless and a clear sign that the industry is still moving in the right direction.

One of the most noticeable aspects of the new figures is the clear and continuing swing away from road to waterborne transport. The number of containers handled by inland water terminals in Flanders was up by a staggering 24%. The total rise for the period between 1997 and 2001 is equivalent to almost 600,000 lorries. This has important benefits for our road network. Not only is the total volume of traffic reduced, but it has also allowed savings on road expenditure estimated by the European Union at some 22.8 million euros.

The continuing success of inland waterways in 2001 can be attributed to a number of factors. Perhaps the most important were further cuts in navigation costs and the granting of new subsidies for the construction of quay walls. On 1 January 2000 shipping duties were slashed by no less than 90%. As these duties previously represented approximately 10% of the total cost of river and canal transport, this move significantly enhanced the competitiveness of the water haulage business. Individual company grants for the improvement of mooring and loading facilities have also played a key roll. Construction subsidies of up to 80% are available to companies, in return for a specific guarantee that they will ship a fixed amount of goods on inland waterways during a period of 10 years. As a result of these measures, 18 new quay walls have been completed, 25 more are under construction and a further 29 proposals are at the tender stage. All 72 projects are scheduled for completion by 2005, with the expectation that this will allow inland shipping to increase by a further 50%.

Reported by
12 March 2002

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