4 April 2005
BRUSSELS – Business on the canals connected by Belgium’s Strepy Thieu boat lift is booming, according to figures out on Monday.
La Derniere Heure reported that the unique canal lock – which took 20 years to build and carries boats 73 metres from one canal to another – has recorded its best ever three months since it opened two years ago.
The boat lift has seen water freight carried through it soar by 119 percent in two years.
In January and February, some 345,839 tonnes were carried on boats, compared to 240,767 in the same period in 2004 and to 157,627 in 2003.
In January, 452 boats went through the lift, carrying 168,550 tonnes; in February, 450 boats carried 177,289 tonnes and last month saw 484 boats carrying 158,016 tonnes.
“We’re very happy with the figures,” said Jacques Dehalu, managing director of Sofico, a finance company in Wallonia, which manages the lock.
“Without a doubt this shows the Wallonia region has been given a new lease of life. However, we mustn’t stop here.
We must continue our efforts to make more economic and political players aware about the use of the waterway.”
Dehalu says it was not surprising that it took almost two years for the boat lift to become popular.
Its use has steadily grown, with an average increase of 225,000 tonnes every year since its opening.
“Opening a canal is not like opening a road,” he explained.
“When a canal is opened, you still have to convince the people and the companies. There have been developments in the sector and the arrival of larger size boats. We’re seeing more with capacities of 1,300 tonnes rather than 600 tonnes. When you think that a lorry transports 20 tonnes on average, that means there are far fewer lorries on our roads.”
The opening of the new Strepy boat lift has led to an increase of 80 percent in boat traffic on the canal between Charleroi and Brussels.
“Brussels and Charleroi ports are two of the largest beneficiaries of the expansion of Stepy,” said Dehalu, adding that he wanted to see more information being given out about the ports.
The figures show that all sorts of businesses are transporting goods on the canals, but the largest quantities – of over 100,000 tonnes – are for minerals, building materials, agricultural products, fertilisers and chemical products.
A fourth lock in Wallonia is being built at Lanaye in order to open up access to the Juliana canal. Measuring 220m long, 25m wide and 13.7m deep, the lock is due to be finished in 2008 or 2009.
“It will open up access to the Black Sea,” said Dehalu.
“We will have two important axes. There will be the South-North axis towards the ports in the North Sea and the East-West axis which will allow traffic to go towards the Dutch border and towards the Eastern European countries.”
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news