Research has a key role in a further and ongoing development of inland navigation. Research often offers the possibility of gaining insights in major issues, like the market situation and its potential and logistic and technical problems. Furthermore, research can offer new logistics and technical concepts, solutions and improvements and new ways of positioning within the market.
Although research could offer valuable insights and solutions, conducting research is also often an expensive activity. For that reason, it is important that research should be effective and efficient and conducted on structural base. To achieve this, technical research in inland navigation should be mainly focussed on studying the possibility of applying techniques on ships. Besides, new logistic concepts and the market potential of the sector should be studied. In order to be increasingly innovative, research should be performed on a structural base.
Research has to be focussed on main issues in inland navigation: Sustainability, safety and security and the fit between waterways and ship design. Many technical research within inland navigation focuses on the possibility of applying (existing) techniques on ships or retrofitting, using new techniques in addition to existing barges. Furthermore, research should be focussed on exploring new logistic concepts.
It is important to establish research programs and institutes to achieve research on a structural base. Especially research programs, in which research institutes, sector and private organization and other parties cooperate in order to conduct research. Research is not only performed on technical and logistic issues, but also market and economic research are important in the development of the sector. Market research makes it possible to explore the market potential.
Research programs, in which several organizations - research institutes, sector organizations and the public sector - cooperate to establish new logistic and technical concepts, are important for the innovative development of the sector. In September 2008 PLATINA was launched, in which several project partners from different European countries cooperated to give action to the European action plan NAIADES.
One of these research projects is CREATING, funded by the European Union, in which several partners from different European countries participated. The aim of this project was to stimulate inland waterway transport by identifying possibilities for a modal shift from road to inland waterway transport. In order to establish this, the project partners studied how it would be able to provide the optimal logistic and technical conditions. As part of this project, four case studies and ten subprojects have been performed.
There are some research institutes that are - partly - involved in research for the maritime sector. In the Netherlands, TNO and MARIN (Maritime Research Institute Netherlands) are active in the maritime sector. Also technical universities, like the Delft University of Technology and the Eindhoven University of Technology, are involved in research programs in the maritime sector. More economic and logistic driven research institutes are for example the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and Dinalog (Dutch Institute for Advanced Logistics). Besides, several research companies in the private sector perform economic and logistic research.
Market and economic research
Two times a year the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine publishes a market observation, in which the state of European inland navigation has been described. Also in other publications, like 'The Power of Inland Navigation' of 2009, published by the Dutch Inland Shipping Information Agency (BVB) in cooperation with Expertise and Innovation Centre Inland Shipping (EICB) and the European Barge Union (EBU), market research of inland navigation has been performed. On behalf of the Dutch sector organization Central Bureau for Inland Barging, NEA performs an annual cost price research for inland navigation - or for the particular kinds of cargo.
Presentations on this topic at the Rivers of the World Forum: