Waterways as transport routes
- Networked water
- Inland water transport
- Maritime transport
- Water - more than just for transport
- Maritime safety
- Maritime transport economy
The main advantages of water-borne transport for both national economies and for the environment are its unrivalled low overall economic costs and the additional function of waterways as an environment for living and recreation.
Both the German Government and the European Union (EU) pay great attention to water-borne transport in an effort to cope with the predicted traffic increase in an environment-friendly and cost-effective way.
The Federal waterway network in Germany comprises about 7,300 kilometres of inland waterways, of which roughly 75 percent are rivers and 25 percent canals. The Federal waterways also include some 23,000 square kilometres of lakes. The installations along the Federal waterways include 400 locks and 320 weirs, three ship lifts, two dams, and about 1,300 bridges. The main network (ie, waterways of class IV and higher) with a length of approximately 5,100 kilometres includes the Rhine (with its tributaries Neckar, Main, Mosel, and Saar), the Danube, the Weser, and the Elbe as well as the grid of canals linking these major rivers plus the Oder.
These waterways form an essential component of the "wet" Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and, accordingly, must be designed and maintained in an effective and efficient condition. Bottlenecks in the network must be eliminated to increase its capacity. The German parts of the North Sea and the Baltic are accessible via 750 kilometres of waterways for sea-going vessels.
The countries between the Black Sea and the North Sea can be reached by vessels via the Danube, the Main-Danube Canal, the Main, and the Rhine. The wet East-West thoroughfare is formed by the canal network linking the Rhine and the Oder. There are more than 100 modern public sea and inland ports in this country. 56 of the 74 metropolitan areas in Germany are linked via waterways.
Up to 240 million tonnes of bulk goods are transported per year via the German Federal waterways, which amounts to between 60 and 65 billion tonne-kilometres. This equals almost 90 per cent of the goods transport by railway in this country or about 14 million lorry journeys. Moreover, some 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers are carried via inland waterways, which corresponds to another 700,000 lorry journeys.
This way, inland shipping makes a most significant contribution to satisfying the industry's demand for transport services, which are delivered on schedule and in a cost-effective and environmentally compatible manner. German inland shipping and inland ports keep around 400,000 people in work. Inland passenger vessels, including river cruise ships, are also growing in economic significance. Many millions of tourists travel in them each year, enjoying the delightful waterside landscapes.
In 2007, the German North Sea and Baltic Sea ports handled around 312 million tonnes of cargo. Container transport accounted for over one third of this volume, with a total of 15.2 million containers (TEU).
In the passenger transport sector, over 30 million passengers arrive at and depart from German seaports each year, around 13 million of which travel on international services. Domestic coastal shipping in Germany consists mainly of services to the islands of Eastern and Northern Frisia.
International passenger transport is predominantly on the Baltic Sea, especially services to Scandinavia.
Over and above their environment-friendly transport function, the Federal waterways fulfil a number of other functions - which is something rather unusual for any mode of transport: They supply drinking and domestic as well as irrigation water, they feed power stations, they are used for waste water disposal and for the removal of floodwater, and they offer amenities for fishing.
In addition to providing a habitat for aquatic flora and fauna, the Federal waterways are valued highly as places of rest and recreation for the population. With an interconnecting network of nearly 10,000 kilometres of Federal and state inland waterways, 23,000 square kilometres of attractive lakes, and 750 kilometres of navigable waterways on the North Sea and the Baltic, Germany is an attractive region for watersports in the heart of Europe.
Safety at sea is ensured by a great number of international conventions and codes and is continuously being further improved.
The maritime industry in Germany is a sector of the economy with very positive prospects for the future and with a high significance for the whole economy.