Memorandum by the Inland Waterways Association
1. What action and partnership is required of
the industry and government to develop a sustainable, internationally
competitive shipping industry
The use of inland waterways for the movement
of freight must be recognised by the Government and the industry
as a part of the British shipping industry and not in isolation
as so often seems to happen. Indeed in the past it has appeared
to be included in any transport planning as an afterthought. Moreover,
despite the acceptance by the UK Government in the early 1980s
of a standard definition of an "inland waterway" that
approximates to the EU 1980 definition, inland shipping issues
are still often referred to the branch of DETR responsible for
British Waterways (BW), who operate only about a third of the
UK's freight waterways, carrying less than 5 per cent of UK inland
waterway traffic (as tonne-km), rather than to the DETR branches
dealing with transport and shipping.
There is clearly a need for inland waterway
freight transport to be more widely recognised within the DETR,
as an integral part of freight transport and shipping as a whole.
IWA's Inland Shipping Group has long been pressing the point,
reiterated later, on the need for establishment within the Department
of a unit with overall responsibility for the development of all
waterborne freight transport, including responsibility for grants
for shipping facilities on waterways and at ports. Such a unit
will need to operate in close partnership with the wide variety
of bodies responsible for navigation on UK freight waterways.
Regarding Government actions required for the
development of the British inland shipping industry in particular,
we would draw your attention to our earlier evidence to the House
of Commons inquiry on the Integrated Transport White Paper, especially
the section entitled "Coastal and Inland Shipping".
We reiterate the main points of our response below.
In order for the new Commission
for Integrated Transport to have a balanced view, there must
be a section within DETR that co-ordinates policies for the development
of traffic on inland and coastal waterways and short-sea routes.
Track access grants, currently available
for railways only, must be extended to inland waterways.
There needs to be a national register
of waterside sites, which have existing or potential use for handling
waterborne freight or for the location of waterway-using industries,
similar to the 1996 scheme for safeguarding of 30+ wharves on
the River Thames.
A programme must be prepared for
the improvement of selected existing inland waterways and for
examining the potential for new waterway developments which maximise
Selected UK waterways must be included
as part of the TENs programme as they are linked by river-sea
shipping with the mainland European waterways.
When promoting the transfer of freight
from roads, the water transport option must always be made explicit.
For the Integrated Transport policy
to have any reasonable impact, the Government must implement at
least the targets for waterborne freight set by the Royal Commission
on Environmental Pollution (1994)an increase from 25 per
cent to 30 per cent in tonne-km of UK freight moved by water by
the year 2010.
The Government has recently stated that it is
looking to extend the Freight Facilities Grant Scheme (FFG) to
cover all ports as a means of maximising the role of coastal shipping
in the area of domestic freight movement. We would not object
to this broad policy provided that caution were to be exercised
as a system is developed. The role of inland ports must not only
be protected, but positively enhanced and encouraged so that shipping
can be a truly sustainable mode.
The grant regime must have an in-built bias
towards inland ports. Traffic through coastal ports should not
be incurring extra lorry miles when the goods could be handled
through a port further inland, i.e., in such cases the coastal
port should not receive grant or at least the road haul between
the coastal port and the inland port should be subtracted from
the road mileage saving used in calculating eligibility for grant.
2. The contribution that shipping can make to
achieving the objectives of the Transport White Paper
The principal objective behind the Integrated
Transport White Paper is to achieve an effective and economically
viable integrated transport system that achieves, inter alia,
efficient and environmentally sustainable freight transport.
As the least environmentally damaging inland
transport mode, with the exception of pipeline operations, inland
shipping has a significant contribution to make towards achieving
these objectives. We have in the previous section summarised the
most important points made to the committee's earlier call for
evidence for the inquiry into the Integrated Transport White Paper.
The environmental benefits of inland waterway freight transport
are set out in our Blueprint document (enclosed).
3. The present level of employment of UK seafarers,
the effects of any present and future shortage of skilled personnel
in the shipping industry, and in related on shore industries,
and how the training and employment of UK seafarers can be promoted
The problem of diminishing expertise is as important
to the inland waterways as to the rest of the shipping industry,
i.e., it is one that affects the whole of the British Shipping
Industry. We need to see the increase in waterborne freight take
place before the expertise in present crews is lost to the industry.
Training of newcomers to the industry needs to start now. Special
assistance should be considered to assist in this respect. recruitment
is already a problem. On the Continent training establishments
exist to provide a source of skilled labour for the barge industryfor
example, the Royal Educational Fund for the Navigation Industry
(KOF) and the Supervisory Committee for Professional Training
of Youth in Rhine and Inland Navigation, based in the Netherlands.
This is another reason why in future years we could find that
the main operators of inland waterway traffics in the UK are Dutch
and German, a trend that has already begun with the establishment
of operations by Deutsche Binnenreederei (UK) Ltd on the Thames.
4. What the UK can learn from the experience of
other countries in dealing with similar problems, and the role
of the European Union
The UK can learn much from our mainland European
partners and also the former Eastern Bloc countries, especially
with regard to modern barge systems and river-sea ships. Our Association
is a member of the recently formed European River Sea Transport
Union and we feel that it would be worth calling its President
Hans W Dünner for interview. As Managing Director of Deutsche
Binnenreederei GmbH, he could provide an account of the rapid
expansion of the former East German state inland shipping operation
to become a successful commercial enterprise with joint venture
inland waterway operations in USSR, Poland, Czech Republic, Netherlands
and UK. We enclose an article published in Lloyds List written
by Dr David Hilling on this subject.
Ongoing technical development of modern inland
waterway vessels and cargo-handling systems, along with track
infrastructure improvements, have led to development of a successful
and vibrant inland waterway transport industry in several mainland
European countries. Alongside active marketing by the inland shipping
operators themselves, Government support has been a significant
factor in encouraging modernisation and maintaining the profile
of inland water transport as a viable and environmentally advantageous
transport mode. In contrast, the image of inland water transport
in the UK is poor, with many industrialists regarding it as an
outdated transport mode epitomised by the narrowboat. Even the
publication in 1996 of the National Audit Office report on FFG
under the Department of Transport's name included a photograph
of a train alongside narrowboats on the Oxford Canal, with a caption
referring to transfer of freight to rail and water! Whilst there
are some specialist opportunities for small scale carriage by
narrow boat, the major opportunities lie with much larger craft.
It is notable that positive developments on
UK freight waterways in recent years have often come from the
activities of overseas companies. Examples include the establishment
of push-tow systems on the Thames by Deutsche Binnenreederei (UK)
Ltd, the growth of container shipping through the inland port
of Goole, since the establishment of additional facilities at
the port by Rhein, Maas und See Schiffartskantor GmbH (RMS) and
the re-establishment of the American owned Lighter Abroad Ship
(LASH) services to the inland port of Selby.
Although the UK inland shipping industry must
play its part in modernising its own image, the Government has
a significant role to play in awareness raising and positive encouragement
of the inland waterway freight transport mode in the UK, as a
fully integrated part of the wider European waterway network.
ISG recognises and welcomes the fact that this has already begun
in terms of improvements in the availability of FFG and the inclusion
of positive policies in recent PPGs and hopes to see a continuation
of this direction through the Integrated Transport Policy. However,
the inland shipping option still hardly features at all in most
Government publications directed at industry (either from DETR
or DTI) and this is an area where much could be learnt from the
approach of many other European countries.
The European Union can and does play many positive
roles in these developments, ranging from supporting research
in environmental and technical transport issues to strategic transport
planning, such as in the TENs programme, and funding of transport
infrastructure. However, to maximise benefits to the UK inland
shipping industry, the UK Government must be a fully active participant
in development of these policies. This has not been the case to
date, in that inland waterway freight transport in the UK and
the integration of UK freight waterways into the wider European
network appear largely to have been ignored by DETR. Once again,
these issues are highlighted in our enclosed Blueprint
Transport of freight by UK inland
waterways must be seen by the Government as an integral part of
the British shipping industry as a whole.
To ensure that inland waterway freight
transport receives appropriate recognition within the context
of the Integrated Transport Policy, it is essential that a unit
is established within DETR, with responsibility for co-ordinating
policies for the development of freight transport on inland and
coastal waterways and short-sea routes.
This unit will need to establish
a close partnership with the wide variety of bodies responsible
for navigation on UK freight waterways.
Government policy to encourage the
British shipping industry should include measures to improve inland
waterway infrastructure and to protect key operational sites.
Grants for encouragement of waterborne
freight should be extended to include Track Access Grants for
waterways and, with appropriate measures to encourage use of inland
ports, wider availability of Freight Facilities Grants.
Waterborne freight transport has
environmental advantages over road and rail. Increased use of
this mode would contribute towards the Government objectives of
development of an environmentally sustainable Integrated Transport
Diminishing expertise is a problem
in the inland waterway freight industry in the UK. Opportunities
for training new entrants are few and this needs to be rectified,
if British operators are to maintain their position in the UK.
In many mainland European countries
a positive approach is taken by the shipping industry and Government
to the development of modern systems of freight waterway transport.
In contrast, the image of inland waterway transport in the UK
is poor and positive developments are often the result of initiatives
by overseas companies. The UK Government should adopt a significant
role in raising awareness and improving this image, learning from
experience elsewhere in Europe.
Inland freight waterways in the UK
should be seen as an integral part of the wider European waterway
network and included as part of the TENs system. The UK Government
should be a fully active participant in development of European
policies for waterway freight transport.
It is recommended that the Committee
should interview a representative of the European River-Sea Transport
Union, for further views on the European dimension to an integrated
freight transport policy.
1 December 1998