The year 2020 will see further development of the long-planned Seine-Scheldt inland waterway project. Under way intermittently since the 1990s, the project aims to unite a network of 1,100 km of high-gauge inland waterways between the Seine basin and the Scheldt and Maas basins in Belgium. This will enable access for modern river convoys of more than 4,000 tonnes to drive forward the modal shift from road transport towards the waterways.
It will also open up a new gateway for the ports of Antwerp, Dunkerque, Ghent, and Le Havre.
Plans for 2020 include territorial planning, environmental authorisation, and towards the end of the year, the start of the main works for a 107 km European Vb gauge, connecting the Oise to the Dunkerque-Scheldt canal, as part of the Seine-Nord Europe canal from Compiègne to Aubencheul-au-Bac.
The Vb classification will allow ships of about 12 m width and 185 m length to transit the canal.
Fifty seven million m³ of material will have to be dredged and displaced for this, all while not impacting the traffic of the side canal of the Oise and the Canal du Nord during these works.
Another industry that has traditionally used and relies on inland waterways is the chemical sector. However, 85% of chemical products being transported in France are transported via roads, so the projects aim to raise the current 6% rate that makes up the inland waterway transport.
The construction industry will also benefit from the upgraded network. In recent years, underground projects – such as Crossrail in the UK that used the River Thames for materials transport and the Greater Paris project that used the Seine – made use of rivers to efficiently move sediment without blocking roads.
In the spirit of the circular economy, this has led to an increase of immediate reuse of those transported materials within the project.
Part of all maintenance and upgrade works includes measures to combat climate change and to create fishways around locks and embankments.
The Seine-Scheldt project is co-ordinated by the Voies navigables de France, the Public Service of Wallonia, and De Vlaamse Waterweg. Further measures have been allocated until 2027. Click here for a detailed timeline.