Pleasure and pain on the rivers
Inland barges continue to ply their trade on Europe’s waterways. Some market observers are worried, however, that Eastern European crews might become locked in by quarantines. The EU has signalled some basic support.
Inland shipping companies across Europe are living through a series of highs and lows these days. On the positive side it can be noted that inland barges are defying the outbreak of Covid-19 and are continuing to ply their trade on the continent’s rivers and canals.
Now Germany’s national inland waterway association (Bundesverband der Deutschen Binnenschifffahrt BDB) has informed the public that there are currently no restrictions for cross-border goods transport by barge. This is particularly important for a number of industrial enterprises located in Germany’s Rhine-Main region, as many of them depend rather heavily on inland barges services.
The BDB is worried, in contrast, by regulations restricting people’s rights to cross borders, as many barge crews come from Eastern Europe. If employees go home in their time off, then there are chances they won’t be allowed to return, or end up in quarantine. BDB president Martin Staats appealed to politicians. “We’re going to face massive problems soon; we expect to miss many crew members. The government should thus intervene in neighbouring countries to ensure that crew members are free to travel when necessary.” The BDB additionally called for more flexibility in the working time regulations, to ensure that inland barges can continue to serve the supply chain in the current crisis too.
Funds for the mode
Before the Covid-19 situation escalated, inland barge operators received positive signals from Croatia. The EU members’ transport ministers met there and passed the Opatija declaration, recognising inland waterways as a key mode. The ministers want to reduce its impact on the environment and its safety record and are prepared to fund appropriate measures.