Home > Corridor management

How to enable corridor planning for both
automated and conventional barges?


When a vessel starts or changes its voyage, it has to report its voyage, vessel and cargo information. During the trip, he will come across different obstacles such as locks and drawbridges for which he will contact the local authority to request a passage.

The current procedures are request-based and the FCFS-principle (first come, first served) is applied to every obstacle, but there is the vision and dream to make this planning-driven. (more information about typical obstacles can be found below)

The inland waterway network reaches wide and far in the hinterland, which creates a dense network where corridors can be identified. A corridor is a waterway highway that is a typical trajectory between two important cargo hubs.

The big question is now, how can a planning-driven system (on corridor or network level) be accepted to ensure optimal navigation of both automated and conventional barges, but further also include the smaller waterways and reach the far hinterland?

It was a dream of many inland waterway players to enable this. The reasons for this can be found as well on the barge side as on the authority side.

On the barge side, the tracking of the barge including Required Time of Arrival, will make sure it is able to adapt its speed, which eventually will lead to a reduction in fuel consumption. An enormous important cost for the barge operators.

On the authority side, the advantages are twofold. First, a clear schedule will make sure that congestions are avoided, for example on busy locks located in the ports. Further, it can contribute to the solution of the Green Deal.

A relevant example can be found below to make the situation more tangible.

A barge leaves from the Port of Antwerp and wants to reach Paris. Two possible routes can be identified, using first the Leie (Gent – Waregem – Kortrijk) or the Schelde (Gent – Oudenaarde). There are multiple factors that impact an “optimal route”, which are:

  • The current (impacts the fuel usage)
  • Accidents
  • Congestion
  • Which locks and bridges are present (f.e. railway bridge)
  • water levels and flow

How does the planning procedure needs to be designed to optimize the cargo flows in Flanders? Multiple follow-up questions can immediately be enlisted:

  • Will the voyage plan be obligated or will it be proposed?
  • When does the barge needs to deliver its voyage plan?
  • When will the authority deliver the schedule of the voyage plan?

Some extra information around this challenge can be found below:

  • Although a lot of the inland waterway players believe a change in planning system would optimize inland waterway navigation, there are still traditional players who prefer the current way of working and who are not eager to adopt these changes.
  • Further, for lock planning it is important to note that the FCFS-principle mentioned above is not 100% correct. In a lot of the cases, the locks are big enough to pass multiple barge in one passage. However if a second vessel can’t fit in the lock anymore, a third vessel could get priority.
  • A last important element to mention for this challenge. Notice that the current barges have different shift systems, which impacts the required crew size (14 h, 18 h, 24h). This information is at the moment not available for the authorities.