In which way does Watertruck+ involve the sector organizations? What is their role? What’s in it for the skippers?

A profound communication strategy, planning and involvement of the sector is available. We are in regular contact with the sector organizations and will continue to be in future. We refer to our communication plan and invite stakeholders to get in contact for further information.

The sector organizations ESO, EBU and KBV have been invited by Watertruck+ to conclude a mutual cooperation agreement. This process is ongoing.

Is the government entering into competition with the inland shipping trade harming the existing private inland shippers?

Watertruck+ is a Connecting Europe Facility Transport (CEF Call 2014) project. The Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA) has signed a contract (Grant Agreement) with the Flemish government, who in turn appointed three implementing bodies: Waterwegen & Zeekanaal (W&Z) nv (lead partner, currently merged with De Vlaamse Waterweg nv), nv De Scheepvaart (currently transformed into De Vlaamse Waterweg nv) and the Vlaams Instituut voor Mobiliteit (VIM) vzw (currently taken over through fusion with Antwerp Management School). These public parties were authorised by the Flemish government to create Watertruck+ bvba for the execution of the project. The private operators involved in the project have now joined the bvba (ltd., company with limited liability), as stipulated in the articles of association.

Watertruck+ is complementary to the classic inland navigation and mainly focuses on new flows and a modal shift from the road to the water.
ITB data reveal that the number of registered class I and II vessels in Belgium, in the dry cargo segment, decreased from 620 to 210 units (-66%) between 2000 and 2015, which is a structural decrease of 27 units per year. In the pilot phase (2018-2019), the Watertruck+ project aims to bring around 30 vessels into business in this segment. Therefore, market disruption is definitely not an issue here.

Is WT+ only interesting for larger companies?

Both calls were open for everyone to join. Both small and large companies have been invited to sign up for an open and non-discriminatory investment regime.

Just as it is the case with other vessels, reality shows that such an investment can be obtained more easily by larger companies: loan conditions are quite firm, requiring a substantial equity deposit by the operator and having a relatively short term. In contrast, operators frequently have little equity and are looking at an operational return in the medium or long term.

As an attempt to turn the tide, Watertruck+ has developed a master plan consisting of business cases for the construction of a new fleet of Watertrucks throughout Europe, driven by private investments.

Note: the utilization of the vessels will be carried out by the operators, according to specific procedures.

Have you received sufficient candidates for building the vessels? Which countries are they from? Will you succeed in keeping to the deadline that states the vessels will be built by the end of this year?

There was great interest on the market. A combined total of 23 candidates applied for the procedures of push boats and barges, with 35 applications from all over Europe, ranging from Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania and Turkey. The majority of candidates came from the Netherlands (70%), one of the leading countries in the field of inland navigation. However, it was impossible to invite all parties to submit an offer and therefore we used public procedures to select 6 applicants per parcel. These applicants have received a tender based on the supplied Special Specifications. We received their offers by the end of October 2016. Evaluation and negotiations are ongoing.

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