Harrie de Leijer, partner at STC Nestra, a member of the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), has a message for the water community. “When we talk about water or water management, we never talk about shipping. We talk about all the other uses of waterways, but shipping does not sit at the same table.”
His call for this to change is prompted by the prospects of what lies ahead. “A huge inland shipping market is growing outside Western Europe,” says De Leijer. The examples he gives span the continents – Ukraine in Eastern Europe; Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in South America; India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Pakistan in the wider Asia region; as well as various countries in Africa.
China is leading the transformation of the inland shipping sector
STC Nestra is part of the STC-Group. Nestra stands for Netherlands Expert Group for Sustainable TRAnsport and Logistics. De Leijer’s call is also prompted by the transformation he has witnessed in China – a transformation he documented recently as co-author of a World Bank report.
“In the last four decades, China has completely turned its system around,” he says. “Inland shipping was nearly dead. It was only used for bulk commodities such as coal and iron ore, and there was no container transportation on the river.”
Such is the scale of the change that the World Bank saw value in facilitating the first English language assessment of the sector in China to help inform development around the world. “There is a huge lesson to learn from the experiences,” adds De Leijer. “What did they do? How did they do it? How did they manage to become such an important country in inland shipping, and what are the lessons we can learn?” The report answers these key questions.
Initially the focus was on lessons for developing countries, but it became clear there were wider lessons too. “When we were working on the report, we found a huge amount of innovation,” says De Leijer, mentioning aspects such as smart autonomous shipping and new fuel options for ships.