The power of waterways

nv De Scheepvaart was established in 2004 as an autonomous agency and limited liability company under public law for the maintenance, operation, management and commercialisation of the Albert Canal, the Kempen Canals, the Schelde-Rhine River connection and the common Maas (the eastern waterways).

In total nv De Scheepvaart cares for 329 km of canals and rivers, locks, bridges, quay walls and almost 4,000 hectares of public domain along these waterways. Waterwegen en Zeekanaal nv cares for most of the waterways in the west. Its core business consists of stimulating goods traffic and thereby contribute towards improved mobility and safety on the road. Furthermore the inland waterways are managed, maintained and developed not only as an economic resource. They also have important environmental, recreational and social assets. Flanders has many inland waterways which form an excellent network for the transportation of goods. Since the 1990s goods transport via Belgian waterways has increased considerably. To build on their success, the waterway authorities face some significant challenges, particularly with regard to the adaption of the waterways’ infrastructure. nv De Scheepvaart has initiated an intensive program of modernization and maintenance of the canal infrastructure in order to adapt its waterways to the developments in transportation. The agency not only invests in infrastructure on and around the canal, it also owns nearly 4,000 hectares of real estate along the canal banks which it leases to companies. The real estate is managed in a commercial and market-oriented manner.

Investing in inland shipping

Companies that wish to make active and intensive use of transportation via water enjoy priority when it comes to granting concessions. An inland navigation vessel of 1,200 tons can transport freight corresponding to 40 railway carriages and 50 lorries on the road. Hence it is immediately clear that a further expansion of transport along the inland waterways will mean significant relief of the congested roads. Inland shipping has done well in previous years. The waterways have not only seen increases in the volume of traffic, but also a larger diversity in the types of goods. If in the past the emphasis was on more traditional segments such as fuel oil, concrete, fertilisers, construction materials etc, today an increasing volume of containers are also being transported by water. Container transport has increased uninterruptedly over the last few years, to date approximately 350,000 container units per year are being transported along the Albert Canal.

The increase in transportation has enabled the waterways to impose themselves a credible alternative for road transport. Along with their primary transport purposes, canals are also used for the conveyance and delivery of water, companies rely on them for cooling and process water. Easily accessible and free to explore, canals and rivers are the ideal destination for boaters, anglers, walkers, cyclists and people looking for a fun day out in the fresh air. Canal towpaths and surrounding areas support a large variety of wildlife and form a unique ecosystem. The agency also invests in improving or providing flood risk management installations in areas where there remains a risk of flooding. nv De Scheepvaart puts real effort into maintaining and improving the environmental quality of waterways. These are all parts of the puzzle to increase goods traffic on the waterways, with respect for all players. Which itself is key part of the puzzle in solving the country’s mobility challenges. The challenges are significant. Inland navigation proves that economy and ecology are compatible.

nv De Scheepvaart takes its social responsibility to ensure that not only ours, but also future generations can enjoy the power of the waterways.

Find out more about us on (flemish version)  or contact us by mail or phone + 32 11 29 84 00.