Uncertain swell

By Christian BlockLex KlerenMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

In freight transport, inland navigation – with its comparatively low emissions – is to gain in importance. In the recent past, this mode of transport has at best maintained its significance. Luxembourg is striving to create incentives.

Norbert Schilling grabs the radio and then leaves the office. It's only a few hundred metres to the locks. Schilling is head of the inland waterway service of the Ministry of Mobility. The offices are, sensibly, not in the skyscrapers on the Kirchberg, but right next to the banks of the Moselle.

Norbert Schilling reports to the command post. From here, the staff of the Service de la navigation fluviale have an overview of everything. Using cameras and binoculars, they can see the entire area between the "Merterter Kéier" (the bend before the Moselle reaches Mertert downstream) on one side and the bend at Machtum on the other. With the European river information system EuRis, their field of vision even expands many times over. On a map, they can not only get a real-time overview of the inland waterway traffic on the condominium (see below) and where the ships are heading. In the event of an accident, for example with a hazardous goods transport that is leaking gallons of petrol, they also have essential information for the rescue services. "We are also the emergency service on water, " says Schilling. All incidents on the Moselle must be reported to the service.

It is one of many missions of the inland waterway service, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. "Actually, we have eleven core tasks. Our main task is, of course, the operation of the waterway, " Schilling explains. On the morning of our visit, traffic was temporarily suspended due to maintenance work. Over the year, slightly more than 5,300 cargo ships (2022) pass through the lock in Grevenmacher in one direction or the other.

If the political leaders in Brussels and Luxembourg have their way, more cargo will have to be loaded onto ships and trains in the future. Or, as one should say when it comes to Luxembourg: More cargo will have to be loaded onto them – again. Because a little more than 15 years ago, the Moselle was even busier. In the record year of 2006, the ten-million-tonne mark was broken for the first time in the history of Moselle navigation (about 7,400 cargo ships). The annual report of the Ministry of Transport stated at the time that "apart from the economic impact, one learns to see the contribution and potential of this mode of transport in favour of sustainable development, considering that the Moselle as a waterway prevented the traffic of about 400,000 trucks, resulting in a significant saving of greenhouse gas emissions".

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