TransportIn light of continuing transport growth within the European Union, there is a need to use the free capacity offered by Inland Waterway Transport (IWT).

Although the inland waterways offer a congestion-free network, the ease, safety and efficiency of it is sensitive to hydrological impacts from the short-term up to the climate time scale. Accurate forecasts are needed over a range of time scales:

  • Short- to medium-term forecasts of discharges/water levels to optimise the load capacity of the vessels as well as to timely take into account that waterways might be blocked due to floods.
  • Monthly to seasonal forecasts for the medium- to long-term planning and enhancement of the water bound logistic chain.
  • Climate projections for the optimal future fleet planning of shipping companies as well as for infrastructural waterway management.

The non-waterbound transportation network (roads, railways) is also vulnerable to hydrological extremes, primarily to floods. Reliable forecasts are required to optimise emergency planning, preparedness programmes as well as to guide transport via alternative routes/transport modes. For the long-term planning of flood protection measures, climate projections about the possible future evolution of extremes are needed.

In this sectoral survey, we evaluated how improved hydro-meteorological forecast products increase the operating efficiency and strategic management of the European transportation sector. A special focus was given to Inland Waterway Transport. The users, representing different parties involved in the transport chain, were closely involved from the very beginning.

The target areas chosen as case studies (Rhine, Danube and Elbe Rivers) were part of the backbone of Europe’s waterway and non-waterbound network. Therefore, improvements demonstrated would have a direct economic relevance for the transportation sector. In addition, these river basins represent different runoff regimes and climate characteristics, facilitating the transfer of results.

Partners: BfG, HZG


Potential economic benefit of better forecasts for water transport

This report describes the potential economic benefit of improved forecasts for waterway transport on the River Rhine. A detailed cost structure model was applied to a large set of different water level conditions to estimate the transport costs in dependence of the ship’s payload and the available water depth at the relevant bottleneck.

Transport costs of 7 commonly used ship types for the transport between the ports of Amsterdam / Rotterdam / Antwerp and the Rhine-Neckar region have been analyzed. Based on these transport cost-relationships different forecast information was used to determine the payload of the different vessel types:

  • deterministic waterlevel forecasts,
  • raw ensemble waterlevel forecasts and
  • post-processed probabilistic waterlevel forecasts.

Differences between the various vessel types are evident (large-sized vessel show more potential benefit from improved forecasts). In addition, the results demonstrate that using probabilistic forecasts leads to lower transport costs than the deterministic forecasts. Besides improvements in forecast quality the forecast horizon was extended from 4 to 10 days. This additional time window, useful e.g. to optimize the scheduling of individual trips, indicated an even more substantial economic benefit of medium-range probabilistic waterlevel forecasts for transport along Europe’s most important inland waterway.

Read the full report on potential economic benefit of better forecasts for water transport.

Improved transport cost planning

Hydrological forecasts of different lead times are needed by inland waterway transport to improve transport cost planning and the competitiveness of the inland navigation sector within the overall transport market. Within IMPREX several pre-operational forecast products have been developed to support decision making in this sector:

  • probabilistic 10-day waterlevel forecast for waterway Rhine, the most important inland waterway in Europe, required to optimize transport management, short-term stock management and waterway maintenance;
  • monthly to seasonal flow forecast products for the German waterways Rhine, Elbe and Danube required for medium- to long-term planning and optimization of the water-bound logistic chain such as:
    • stock management
    • fleet composition
    • adjustment of the industrial production chain
    • connecting waterway transport with other transport modes / modal split planning),
    • sediment management of harbours and tidal influenced waterways

Besides the forecasts products, which are the visible output for the stakeholders, the report describes the underlying forecasting systems, which have been set-up in the course of IMPREX at BfG. These forecasting systems form the backbone of future forecasting services providing users with specific forecast products. All forecast products presented here have been codesigned with the WP9 stakeholders of IMPREX.

Read the full report on improved transport cost planning.

Impact on adaptive mgmt of transport sector

Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) is a mode of transportation highly vulnerable to hydrological extremes, notably to low flow events in shallow river systems. Low flows occasionally create serious disruptions of IWT operations in present-day climate conditions, and might create more frequent and severe disruptions under projected future climate. Innovative probabilistic water level forecasts developed within EU H2020 IMPREX project, shown to be useful already at present climate and hydrological conditions, are likely to become even more important for decision making under future climate.

By substantially reducing the uncertainty of the complex human-technology-environment system under study, these probabilistic forecasts are anticipated to become an important component of strategies designed for adapting IWT and related sectors and stakeholders to hydrological extremes. The remaining components of multi-level uncertainty can be explored with integrated modelling, including system dynamics (SD) models developed within the Interdisciplinary Knowledge Integration approach (IKI-IMPREX).

Read the full report on the impact on adaptive mgmt of transport sector.