- The detailed analysis of several different new markets revealed one common feature: new markets for IWT exist, with high potentials. But these markets do not fall into the hands of inland navigation similar to ‘ripe fruits’. They are fraught with intermodal competition, commercial and technical challenges, risks and uncertainties to varying degrees. Some of these new markets might require clear deviations from the previous state-of-the-art model in terms of vessel technology (including automation), vessel design (how to integrate batteries or hydrogen tanks on board) and size of vessels, as well as logistical concepts.
- The urban transport of freight, passengers and waste is an activity where inland navigation meets the need of society and governments to find solutions for existing and growing urban problems, in terms of saturation of road infrastructure, related negative externalities, and ecological problems in cities. The greater these problems become, the more inland navigation can position itself as an adequate solution. However, this presupposes a ‘greening’ of inland vessels themselves in order to meet the demands placed on new city logistics and in order to be ‘credible’.
- But even if a complete greening of vessels that are active in urban freight, passenger and waste transport has not yet been achieved, these new market activities are important for making experiences in city logistics, to find suitable logistical concepts, and to gain more understanding about the needs of the demand side in urban logistics (supermarkets, construction industry, parcel delivery, waste transport, etc.).
- Apart from urban transport of freight, passengers and waste, the transport of alternative energies was identified as a new market. Within this field, three different submarkets (wind turbines, biomass/biofuel, hydrogen) were analysed. A common feature is a rather high degree of risk coming from the regulatory and political sphere and from partly unknown transition pathways in the future.
- The logistical activities in the energy sector represent a derived transport demand, dependent upon the generation of a certain type of energy in certain volumes per year, which itself depends upon political and regulatory incentives and technological developments. The food-fuel debate in the biomass/biofuel market is a good example of how market conditions can change over time.
- While this is not in the scope of the report, it is worth mentioning that beyond the use of IWT as a transport mode for specific types of cargo in urban areas, new logistics and new usage concepts involving inland vessels could also emerge in the future. Such new concepts could further strengthen the use of inland vessels, notably in urban areas, and could also be considered as new opportunities for inland vessels. For instance, such new concepts could be self-unloading vessels with on-board handling equipment or shared barges (several users for the same barge). Similarly, new usage for barges could consist in logistical chains where the clients collect their goods directly from the barge (no last mile). For instance, the users would receive their parcels directly from the barge, which would require designing barges in such a way that receiving the public, withdrawals of parcels for individuals, shipping and returns management, preparation of orders, departure start of delivery rounds can be made on board. Barges could also be used as floating stocks. Goods, such as clothes, could be stored on barges in the immediate vicinity of sales areas and be made available at short notice in case of a peak in demand.
- All in all, it seems that the abovementioned urban transport of freight, passengers, alternative energies and waste represents a promising but, at the same time, challenging array of new opportunities, which should be conquered by inland navigation companies with the necessary help from public authorities, aiming to achieve more sustainable logistics in the future.