Position paper: Inland waterways classification for South America: Core concepts and initial proposals

A. Jaimurzina, Otto Koedijk, G. Wilmsmeier, A. Dohms, D. Montiel, G. Pauli, P Rigo, T. Spengler, F. Wens

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South America, as of yet, has not been able to take full advantage of its extensive system of naturally navigable waterways and in making them an integrated part of the region’s transport network to cater for the ever increasing demand for cargo and human mobility. Infrastructure limitations are one of the major obstacles for the development of inland navigation in the region and, to a certain extent, they are being addressed in most national and regional transport plans and projects. However, this effort, in most cases, remain isolated, and the potential and role of inland shipping as a “natural resource” in itself, but also for transporting the region’s natural resources is, in general, absent as an integral part of the countries transport, mobility and or logistics policies. In this sense the economic and social value of the region’s inland waterway system is still underestimated. A common classification of the inland waterways (rivers, canals and lakes), which currently does not exist in the region, could be instrumental for achieving greater, better and more sustainable use and governance of inland navigation. The experiences of other regions in the world demonstrate that inland waterway classifications, far from being public sector formality or a purely academic exercise, are an essential, powerful and dynamic tool for supporting and implementing inland waterways policies and projects inasmuch as they allow to identify the limitations and the economic potential of navigable waterways in the region and to encourage and monitor the development of their capacity for transport of goods and people. Against this backdrop and in order to encourage reflection on a potential inland waterways classification for the South American region, this document uses the example of the European system of classification to demonstrate the role of classifications in the inland navigation development. Specifically, it looks at the 1996 European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance (AGN Agreement). Signed in 1996 and ratified by 18 European countries, the AGN Agreement continues to be one of the main instruments for inland water transport development in Europe, as demonstrated by the growing number of ratifications by the countries of the region.1 This Working Document describes the main elements of the European classification system of navigable waterways (Section I) and existing mechanisms for the monitoring and use of the established network of inland waterways (Section II) and then analyses the role of the classification in the development of inland water transport in Europe (Section III). It goes on to discuss lessons learned and presents a preliminary proposal for the establishment of a regional classification for South America (Section IV). The concluding section addresses the institutional processes and next steps needed to develop a classification of this kind. Bearing in mind that the process for the elaboration of the South American classification is still at an early stage and several open question still remain, the overall goal of the document is to highlight and illustrate relevant issues, which have to be discussed at national level and among the experts of the South American countries to identify and implement a harmonized scheme of classification on a regional basis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th PIANC-COPEDEC 2016 Conference
Subtitle of host publicationRio de Janeiro, Brazil
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event9th PIANC-COPEDEC 2016 Conference: ANTAQ/ECLAC/PIANC Workshop - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Duration: 16 Oct 201621 Oct 2016
Conference number: 9


Conference9th PIANC-COPEDEC 2016 Conference
CityRio de Janeiro
Internet address


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