Rivers of the World Conference

''An international Expertise and Innovation Centre for Inland Waterways and Inland Navigation entitled 'Rivers of the World' will start in January 2011 organized by the Dutch Expertise Innovation Centre for Inland Barging (EICB) and their partner NEA''. This was announced by Mr. Pieter Struijs during the international conference on 8th - 10th of December at the SS Rotterdam.

About 120 delegates attended this conference. Amongst them were delegates from China, Brazil, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam and Central and Eastern Europe. In the many presentations there were given, these delegations had the prominent opportunity to present an overview of the developments on their waterways in their countries. Interesting to see was that all participants agreed that inland shipping will be a key factor in the future of transport of goods.

The conference included a plenary session and a series of parallel sessions. On Friday the 10th of December, international delegates were invited for a trip to the port of Rotterdam: 'The Second Maasvlakte', STC, the Port of Rotterdam and Veka shipyards.

According to Mr. Pieter Struijs, this conference can be seen as a start of a worldwide cooperation to strengthen the transport via the inland waterways, and to foster and exchange knowledge of inland shipping. The new international expertise centre will be called 'Rivers of the World' and can play a major role in this cooperation. Mr. Pieter Struijs stated: "We started this initiative together with the NEA and with additional support from the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation and the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. This is just a start in exchanging experiences and innovative ideas. On January the 3th, the website 'Rivers of the World' will be updated with more information about inland shipping in the Netherlands and worldwide. The goal is to make this website the coming year more interactive. Therefore we need your creative input. By the way, we are looking forward to work with you as partners in innovation and development".

In general, international delegates were clearly satisfied about the conference and they all were of the same opinion that a conference like this must be continued in the future. Mr. Pieter Struijs also mentioned the main role of EICB is to strengthen and to improve the position of the Dutch inland shipping sector. In fact, inland waterway transport becomes a crucial part of logistics and supply chains.


The Yangtze River is one of the most important rivers in China. Mr. Song Dexing, director-general of the Chinese Ministry of Transport presented a clear insight into the big scale and the importance of this sector and the developments within this sector and on the Yangtze river. He for example made it clear that a guaranteed depth in 2020 of 12,5 meter to Nanjing will be available. Another main goal is to achieve in the same year a minimum navigable depth of 3,5 meters on the upper part of the Yangtze River to Tsjoengking. Tsjoengking is located 3000 km upstream the Yangtze River and serves as the economic centre and transportation hub for Southwest China. The transport on this upper-part of the river has already been raised by 59% in the last 5 years. He also made clear that China has already invested in the Yangtze River for 100 billion Euros between 2006 and 2010. The fleet consists of 165,000 units in 4,000 companies and 37,000 family enterprises.

"It is the national strategy that inland shipping will be thé green and secure solution of the transport problem in China."


The rivers of South-America also represent a huge potential for cargo transport. South-America is known as the beauty of the nature. For example the Amazon is the world's largest river basin. The Madeira river is the largest and most important tributary of the Amazon. In the current situation, only 45 millions cargo have been transported in this river. However he estimates that in future 180 million tonnes agricultural and mineral products can be transported by inland shipping. According to Mr. Luiz Carlos Rodiques Ribeiro, General coordinator of the Ministry of Transport it is important to pay more attention to the waterways; the maintenance of the waterways is at this moment insufficient and strict environmental permits upset the development of the river for transport. This must be altered, therefore, the Brazilian government is going to enhance the usage of inland shipping and rail. Currently, 58% of the goods is transported by trucks, but this must be reduced to 30% in 2025. The ambition is to increase the use of inland shipping from 13% to 29% in 2025.

Dutch situation

Mr. Mark Dierikx, Director-General of Aviation and Maritime affairs of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment presented an overview of the Dutch seaports and transport sector in the Netherlands. He mentioned that the sector in general represents a turnover of 44 billion, which is 8% of the Dutch gross national product. Inland shipping is an important part of this cluster. In particular, the Port of Rotterdam serves a container handling of 10 million TEUs which 50% will be transported by truck en 33% by inland shipping. The ambition is to increase the usage of inland shipping up to 45%. Concerning export, the Netherlands represents the 5th position in the world ranking and 6th position with respect to investments. At the end, Mr. Mark Dierikx concluded that the Netherlands has an essential role in the international transport sector, in particular due to the strong position of the Dutch inland shipping.


In general, one assumes that road transport has main advantages compared to other modalities. However, a ship is able to transport one ton of cargo over 1000 km by using 10 liters of fuel; for a train that is 600 km and for a truck 200 km. Mr. Mark Dierikx also stressed that inland shipping will have an essential role to play concerning sustainability and safety in the following years. Innovative and technological developments, such as the usage of alternative fuels or energy will reinforce the position of the Inland shipping sector. Moreover, Mr. Pieter Struijs emphasised the importance of inland shipping in the modal split of the Port of Rotterdam; 5% by rail, 21% by pipeline, 26% by road and 48% by inland shipping. By product-group: 80% of dry bulk, 60% of petrochemical products & dangerous goods and 32% of all containers.

The Second Maasvlakte

Many people have high expectations of the new extension of the Rotterdam harbour-basin, the Second Maasvlakte. In the future the new container terminals should be able to handle 30 Million TEU a year. Due to these large volumes, it is also essential to pay attention to the sustainability and accessibility of the port. This has made the Port Authority to decide that in future (2025) only 35% of the goods may be transported by truck. However, this decision cannot stop the growth of road transport. According to Mr. Emile Hoogsteden, director Containers, Breakbulk & Logistics of Port of Rotterdam Authority, inland shipping is a "Unique Selling Point" to carry all these millions of TEUs. The aim of the Port of Rotterdam Authority is to enhance the Port of Rotterdam's competitive position as a logistics hub and world-class industrial complex. Therefore, cooperation between relevant parties (Port Authorities, National government) is essential to improve the quality of public responsibilities such as sustainability and safety.

In the coming years, the cargo volume of Inland shipping is expected to increase from 1.7 Million TEU to 7 Million TEU. In order to realise this, the Port Authority has to develop policies to enhance the importance of the hinterland networks of inland terminals, like "Portbase" (the communication system of Amsterdam and Rotterdam), "traffic management" (rail by Keyrail) and "Verkeersonderneming" (traffic on A15).

This article gives only a very short insight in the many interesting presentations that were given. All presentations can be downloaded.