Is IWT a Short Distance Mode?

(when its French average haul is 360 km…)

There are more than one way to analyse the performance of IWT in France. One of them is to calculate the average haul of this mode. But States are bound to report only that portion of the transport lying on their territory, to avoid double counting. Thus, conclusions drawn by honest analysts to describe IWT are misleading, because they do not take in consideration that part of the route lying across the borders. This is especially true in France (see "Plea for the Mosel", in French, on the same site...).

France’s geographic position creates this: Linked to the rest of European network by short stems of broad gauge waterway, most of the route used by tonnes exported or imported by France is in fact outside its borders. It is the phenomenon of Traffic Cones, described in Navigation, Ports & Industries, 30th November 2001.

Though it might be arithmetically correct to state that the average haul in France for IWT was 120 km in 2001 (124km in 2000), thus relatively short, this stems from adding data of different natures, and leads to a real misconception about IWT.

Thanks to new VNF analyses, it can be first clarified that the average haul in domestic transport is already 145km (155km in 2000), i.e. 20 to 25% more than what is thought of usually.

But they show also that the total haul in Europe of international transport is 530km (516km), i.e. more than five times more than its haul in France: Out of these 530km (516km), 99km (98km) are in France and the rest, that is 431km (418km), are abroad.

Imports are even carried over a longer distance, 602km (605km), while exports are carried over 475km (456km).

All included, the real average haul of tonnes loaded or unloaded in France is 360 km (352km in 2000) .

Thus, the domain of IWT appears quite broad, since its average hauls vary between 120km and 605km.

This truth might lead to a profound revision of the view the general public, or even the economists, have of IWT. Most of them think of it as a short distance mode, unable to justify building interbasin link canals longer than what they think is the average domain of relevance of IWT.

Correcting this perverse effect of statistics might, on the other hand, reinforce the position of the proponents of these missing links, so necessary for a modern inland navigation, fully inserted in the European network.

The concept of traffic cones highlight this phenomenon: Hauls in France represent only 3,1 (3,2) billion tkm, out of the IWT total foreign commerce, totalling 16,6 (16,4) billion tkm.

(the above figures, taken from NPI 30th December 2001, relate to 2000)