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Research Ecosystems
Creating smart ecosystems
Research projects

Creating smart ecosystems


With Watertruck we wanted to further develop the freight transport on small waterways and optimize it with the introduction of a new navigation concept consisting of a push tug and fitted pushed barges. As a result, an efficient and flexible road transport model is applied to inland navigation

Type project goederenvervoer
Project partners CAMVS (Communauté d’Agglomération Maubeuge Val de Sambre), De Vlaamse Waterweg nv, Expertise- en Innovatiecentrum Binnenvaart (EICB), Port de Bruxelles, POM West-Vlaanderen, Provincie Limburg, Provincie Noord-Brabant, Provincie Zeeland, Voies Navigables de France (VNF)
Duration April 28, 2010 - November 24, 2014
Contact person Sara Bastiaensens, PhD


Watertruck tackles the biggest threats for the traditional inland navigation:

  • Small inland vessels are rapidly disappearing from the transport market
  • There is a lack of workforce.
  • Young bargemen prefer larger vessels.
  • New shippers’ markets can’t be opened up by traditional shipping.
  • The urban modal split requires innovative solutions that lead to lower global transport costs.
  • The use of small waterways needs a helping hand to be able to compete with the very competitively priced road transport but also tackles the following issues.
  • The modal split objectives are far from being reached.
  • Congested roads.
  • Financing issues for smaller vessels.


A new, flexible concept for freight transport, based on push tugs and pushed barges: smaller vessels on small waterways; and on larger waterways a combination of pushed units (convoys) that are taken to their destination by a push tug.

Project Development

  • An analysis of the market of small inland barges in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • Research on operational challenges and opportunities.
  • Industrial trial runs in Belgium, the Netherlands and France.
  • Information about the advantages of Watertruck to all parties involved.


To attract staff:

  • Introduction of a shift work system.
  • Creation of an attractive job on the water in combination with a sedentary life on land.

For the industry and shippers:

  • Better equipped inland waterways transport.
  • Optimized organization for the supply chain leading to lower global transport costs.
  • New niche markets for shippers (ex. waste collection, recycled material).
  • Evolution towards sustainable freight transport.

For society in general:

  • Small waterways retain and improve their vital role for freight transport.
  • Better mobility guarantees thanks to less congested roads.
  • Realization of the desired modal split objectives for freight transport.
  • A more sustainable view on urban logistics.
  • More safety for personnel in the transport sector.


At the end of the project, lead partner Smart Mobility, together with Vlaamse Waterweg and the Flemish Government, entered a new project request with the European authorities to transform the concept into a practical application. This resulted in the follow-up project

This project had the financial support of Interreg IVB-VWE

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Sara bastiaensens phd

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Function Senior researcher at the expertise center “Next Generation Work”
Sara bastiaensens phd

A question about this project?