Master Plan for Barge Transport

Nearly 40% of transport to and from the port of Antwerp is by barge. This is a substantial amount in comparison with other ports, but nevertheless the Port Authority aims to raise the proportion to 43% by 2020. The Master Plan for Barge Transport provides the framework for this.

To further improve barge transport in the port area the Port Authority has been a keen proponent of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for barges. This system not only contributes towards safety in the port but in combination with the Barge Traffic System (BTS) can eventually optimise lock and holding berth planning. A trial project using barges equipped with AIS began on 1 March 2010 and concentrated mainly on lock queuing. Subsequently, on 1 January 2012, the general use of AIS was made compulsory for barges. The ultimate objective is to introduce a fully-fledged barge coordination centre, and an action plan for this was set up in 2012.The first main element of this plan is based on offering a high level of service and improving facilities in the port area. In the meantime a number of bridges over the Albert canal were raised as part of the 2020 Master Plan so that barges with containers stacked four-high can pass under them.


The second main element of the Master Plan concerns intermodal projects aimed at improving the flow of barge traffic within the port and more efficient handling of container barges, which frequently have to call at several terminals.
The Barge Traffic System (BTS) plays a central role here. This platform for communication between terminals and barges permits stricter planning on the terminals. At the moment BTS is obligatory for container terminals but the Port Authority plans to eventually extend it to all barges.
Joint barge planning by the container terminals can also help to make the sailing schedules for container barges more efficient. In autumn 2011 the three largest container operators declared themselves willing to plan their barge operations jointly for a limited period and then to carry out an evaluation.

In the meantime the Premium Barge Service, a sort of shuttle service operating between six maritime container terminals, developed into a regular feature of the port. The possibility of adding a second loop will be considered in the spring of 2012.


Finally, the third main element of the Master Plan mainly concerns collaboration in the hinterland. One of the projects in which the Port Authority is participating is Beverdonk container terminal, a “transferium” on the Albert canal that offers a neutral platform for port users and forms a consolidation point for containers carried to and from Antwerp by barge. This terminal became operational at the end of 2011. As well as helping to avoid congestion such a transferium is an important element of a more sustainable transport policy.

Like the Rail Café for rail transport, representatives of the barge sector meet at the Barge Bars for promotion, information and discussion.