Skip to main content
European Commission logo

Innovative barge trains for effective transport on inland shallow waters

European Union
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Total project cost
€3 459 219
EU Contribution
€1 898 928
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Infrastructure (INF)
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues,
Environmental/Emissions aspects
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The shift of freight from road to water is one of the European strategies to reduce the negative impacts of the increasing transport volume. The River Rhine and other major rivers like the Danube, or the network of deep water canals with good infrastructure can be considered as the backbone of the European inland water-way transport system. But these inland waterways presently serve only parts of West, Central and South-East Europe. Far more inland waterways do exist in other countries and regions, but due to their insufficient either permanent or seasonal low water depth and the limited size of the admitted vessels, only a comparatively low volume of transport can be achieved. The upgrading of these waterways to a higher capacity is planned at long term but often restricted by technical, environmental and / or for budgetary reasons.


The aim of the project was the development of the pushed train concept, which can be effectively operated on seasonally shallow waterways on permanent basis.

Technical objectives have been precisely given:

  • Increase of payload for barges by at least 20%
  • Decrease of construction and operation costs for barges and pushers by at least 30%
  • Application of new light weight materials and material combinations in water transport
  • Provision of reliable data and methods for dimensioning the new super light weight materials and related hull structures based on physical tests and mathematical assessments.
  • Innovative, future oriented and more efficient production technologies in construction.
  • Efficient low draught propulsion systems
  • Improvement of the overall efficiency by more than 30% considering the life time of the transport system.

During initial cycles with all project partners and their different expertise and background, various new concepts for new light weight barges and innovative pushers were proposed, discussed, further analyzed for technical feasibility and for costs / benefit criteria. Based on the requirements for the selected waterways the maximum overall dimensions of the barge train and the individual sizes of barges and push boat were optimized with respect to cargo capacity, standard container sizes and particularly longitudinal strength considerations.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research (DG Research)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


The INBAT R&D Project has successfully developed the INnovative BArge Train. This combination of push boat and barges will be able to transport a greater capacity of cargo in case that the water depth of the river or canal is strongly limited.

Conceptual design of the pushed train consists of two barges and the pusher which can be profitably operated at average draught of ~0.9m in the navigational season.

Project added value:

  • cooperation with recognised European research institutes - transfer of knowledge,
  • elaboration of new experimental techniques, extrapolation of INBAT experience to the standard work
  • patent pending
  • manufacture and implementation of new tests stands and measurement equipment
  • development of dedicated software
  • implementation of CFD techniques
  • elaboration of physical, chemical and strength properties of innovative sandwich materials
  • implementation of advanced, non-linear methods of structure strength evaluation
  • four direct commercial follow-up projects

Better transport performance of INBAT has been made possible by:

  • A reduced light weight of the barges
  • Improved barge transport capacity, both in terms of volume and weight
  • Extended utilisation of the waterway in periods of low water levels
  • Power- efficient propulsive devices, optimised for shallow water
  • Cost- effective ship structure construction methods
  • Modular design concepts reducing building and maintenance cost. 

Compared to the present conventional barge trains operated on the rivers Elbe and Odra and considering an equivalent operation profile, the benefits of an INBAT system were almost 30%.

Policy implications

The EU inland water shipbuilding industry producing at a high cost level and is for this reason severely threatened by imported ships (with very conventional technology) from low-cost countries like People Republic of China. The technological advance promoted by INBAT will increase productivity and secure employment in the European industry.

There are numerous minor waterways in Europe and most of them are connected to seaports. With the INBAT concept, transport on these confined waterways will be competitive again and this will offer a alternative to road transport.


Lead Organisation
United Kingdom
Partner Organisations
Sadef N.v.
60,Bruggesteenweg 60, 8830 GITS, Belgium


Contribute! Submit your project

Do you wish to submit a project or a programme? Head over to the Contribute page, login and follow the process!