Waterway: driving emission reduction by 40% in the supply chain – the new paradigm

May 14, 2024

Understanding the impact of waterway innovation on logistics decarbonization. With a growing emphasis on environmental sustainability, the inland waterway sector is leveraging innovation to achieve significant reductions in the carbon footprint of the logistics industry.

Innovative solutions within the waterway sector are set to reshape supply chains, particularly for the food industry, by reducing emissions by up to 40% compared to road transportation. By focusing on efficiency, technology, and alternative fuels, the sector is playing a crucial role in driving decarbonization .

Greening the Waterways: A Path Forward for Food Logistics

Inland waterways have long been a viable transport mode, but recent advancements have elevated their potential as a green alternative for moving goods. Given the food industry’s reliance on efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable supply chains, these solutions offer a promising solution.

Harnessing Hybrid and Electric Technologies

One key area of innovation is the development of hybrid and fully electric barges. These vessels significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and offer a quieter, more efficient means of transportation. The Port of Paris, for example, recently introduced hybrid barges to transport construction materials, showcasing the potential for food logistics to adopt similar approaches. According to industry estimates, the hybrid barges can reduce emissions by up to 30%, with fully electric versions potentially cutting emissions by up to 100% .

The Rise of Biofuels and Hydrogen

Beyond electric solutions, biofuels and hydrogen are also making waves in the waterway sector. By transitioning to cleaner fuels, the industry is moving closer to achieving carbon neutrality. The French inland waterway operator VNF has reported successful trials of hydrogen-powered barges, which emit only water vapour, making them a potential game-changer for clean logistics.

Reducing Congestion and Emissions

One often-overlooked benefit of waterway logistics is its ability to alleviate road congestion. By diverting freight traffic to rivers and canals, cities can reduce the carbon footprint associated with road transport. In Europe, where traffic congestion costs the economy an estimated €100 billion annually, this shift could lead to substantial economic and environmental benefits .

Multimodal Supply Chains

For the food industry, integrating waterways into multimodal supply chains offers a strategic advantage. By combining waterway transport with road and rail, companies can optimize their logistics, reduce emissions, and lower costs. This approach aligns with the European Green Deal’s goal of shifting 75% of inland freight away from roads by 2030.


  1. Les Echos – “Logistique: la filière du fluvial innove pour décarboner la supply chain”.
  2. European Commission – “The European Green Deal”.
  3. VNF – “Hydrogen-powered barges”.
  4. European Commission – “Road congestion in Europe”.

Photo : Photo Bernd 📷 Dittrich Unsplash

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