The container is more or less the backbone of international trade and everyone would underline the importance of these intermodal transport units. The simplicity that comes along with this standardisation keeps the variety of cargo, that is loaded into a container, rising.
With its position in the Heart of Europe, Austria is connected via the Danube and the Rhine-Main Danube Axis with the big sea ports from North(western) Europe and Constanta. This offers an additional environmentally-friendly transport opportunity: inland navigation. Thus, the major part of container transport from and to Austria is elaborated by road and rail, future potentials for increased volumes via inland waterway do exist.
Next to its ability to transport great volumes, inland navigation offers multifunctional loading units. While shuttle trains for containers need to be operated more or less in roundtrips, inland vessels are able to combine various mass goods and break bulk in containers. This makes inland navigation the mode of choice to smooth peaks, as well as to reduce empty container imbalances. Transport of containers via inland vessel offers a good environmental performance and can be operated from Austria eastbound with three layers, which improves the efficiency and reduces transport costs. Also, heavy containers can be transported without problems. All Austrian and many other Ports along the Danube offer modern and well operated container terminals to connect inland navigation with rail and road.
Furthermore, also rolling cargo such as cars, trucks, agricultural and construction machinery as well as high & heavy offer potentials for a transport via Danube. Although present volumes are low, trade of these products is considerable, while several production sites of the automotive industry and their suppliers are located in the Danube Region. Thinking of roll on/roll off vessels with only one deck, there could arise additional advantage because the cargo mix leads to an improved round-trip efficiency.
This initiative will highlight the advantages and potentials for an environmentally-friendly transport via barge of this type of cargo. Service providers for Danube navigation should discuss the opportunities with freight forwarders, sea carriers and cargo owners during different expert workshops. This should enhance an information and knowledge exchange with the aim to initiate new transports of container and rolling cargo on the Danube and strengthen this sustainable mode of transport.