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Innovative barge trains (inbat) for effective transport on inland shallow waters

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Europe's waterways - smart commercial channels

Transportation of goods and materials is an integral part of a dynamic and competitive economy. With attention on an upcoming traffic gridlock and its wide-ranging socio-economic consequences, the INBAT project partners dealt with issues of particular importance to waterway transportation.

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Europe has a network of rivers and canals linking major cities and towns, centres of commerce and industry. These waterway connections between coastal and inland ports are an asset that allows freight to be moved from producer to consumer, bypassing densely populated and congested areas. They can help in cutting down long distance road hauls. The Rhine/Meuse-Main-Danube corridor - flowing through nine countries and draining the territory of more than a dozen countries - connects the North Sea with the Black Sea. The integration of this waterway link into the trans-European transport networks provides an excellent opportunity to keep traffic moving in the west-southeast corridor of increasing trade exchanges. It is therefore not surprising that the carriage of goods by inland shipping is on the rise thanks to constructive cooperation between authorities, operators and shippers. However, the EU-funded INBAT project has put waterborne transport firmly on the agenda through innovative barge designs and the use of marine technology. Conventional barges can be as long as 25 m with flat bottoms, and as wide as 6 m, depending on the river they navigate. The INBAT researchers were successful in modifying river barges to meet a wide range of applications, including, but not limited to, aggregates and intermodal containers. By combining a push boat and a barge, their carrying capacity within the same dimensions was significantly increased for cases where the water depth is limited. This is the case for rivers Elbe and Odra over long periods of the year. Far more inland waterways exist, but due to either permanent or seasonal low water depth, they are not navigable. The upgrade of these waterways - although planned – is restricted by technical, environmental and budgetary reasons. Therefore, the fact that the INBAT ship will need less water depth than conventional ships is truly outstanding. In many cases the investment needed to maintain a waterway can be reduced and the character of the waterway kept unspoiled. Moreover, transport on inland waterways can be made competitive and offer an attractive alternative to road transport.

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