United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

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first sight appear to act to the detriment of commerce. With regard to the waterways,
however, this control does not extend beyond the administration and the levying of
tolls necessary for then improvement and maintenance. The barges are privately
owned, and a competition therefore exists between the State railways and the barge
proprietors for the carriage of goods. This competition is, however, limited to those
classes of goods which admit of slow delivery, and the State, which has fixed railway
freights at the lowest remunerative rates, exercises in a measure control over the canal
freights, in that it assesses the tolls to be paid for the use of the canals. In the exer-
cise of this power, however, industrial and commercial interests are kept in view, and
are in fact preferred to those of the State as a railway owner, for the tolls levied are
very small, and the restriction thereby placed on canal traffic is insignificant. The
fees paid by a barge measuring 100 tons, over a distance of 25 miles, amount on the
average to i6s.. or to less than 8d. per mile per 100 tons. In certain cases, such as in
that of empty barges, or in that of barges loaded with manure for use in Belgium,
exemption is granted from the pajonent of fees.

It has been urged since 1885, and is still being urged by the Antwerp Chamber of
Commerce, that all the waterways should be toll free, but the Government considers
that the interests of the nation would be best served by the policy of general and uni-
form improvement which it is pursuing. Moreover, it is feared that the total abolition
of fees might divert such a quantity of traffic from the railways to the canals, as to
cause the former to be worked at a loss. It therefore appears that the Belgian Gov-
ernment, although it has not as yet seen its way to making the canals toll free, has
recognized the fact that a policy of low freights and tolls places the local producer at
an advantage in the competition for the world's markets; in fact its general policy
seems to be governed by the consideration of what are the best means at its disposal
for the encouragement of trade and commerce, for immense sums of money have been
gi'anted for the improvement of the ports, and of their necessary adjuncts, the rail-
ways and canals. During the last twenty-five years no less a sum than £16,000,000
has been spent on the ports and canals alone.

The result of this policy is that goods can be sent, in many instances in barges of 300
tons carrying capacity direct from the factory to the seaport without transshipment.
The producer, thus saved the expense incuiTed by such transshipments, finds himself
in the position of being able to make a profit greater by this amount, or to underbid
those of his foreign rivals who may not enjoy such peculiar advantages. This remark
applies in a double sense, for a gain is made on the transport of the raw material as well
as on that of the finished article.

Another reason for the low freights in Belgium, both railway and canal, is the severe
competition for the transit trade, which has to be faced with the transport systems
converging on Ha\Te, Dunkirk, Rotterdam, and even the more distant port of Ham-

In order to form a clear idea of the great utility of the canal system of Belgium, it is
from its heart, from the great port of Antwerp as a center, that the survey must be
taken. Charleroi may be more centrally situated, but Antwerp's position by reason
of the indissoluble connection of maritime and interior navigation in Belgium, ren-
ders it of far greater importance as a canal center. Antwerp holds a leading position
among the great ports of the world, and this is due, not only to her splendid geograph-
ical situation at the center of the ocean highways of commerce, but also, and perhaps
more particularly, to her practically unique position as a distributing center for a large
portion of North-Western Europe. For the distribution and collection of merchan-
dise, the network of railways and canals which converge on Antwerp offers transport
facilities of which the world of commerce has not been slow to avail itself.

The proof of this lies in the steady growth of the volume of barge traffic. In 1902 the
number of barges arriving at the port of Antwerp amounted to 31,850, with a tonnage
measurement of 5,705,731 tons, and of these, 25,886, measuring 3,710,813 tons were
engaged in purely Belgian traffic, while 5,964, measuring 1,994,918 tons were engaged
in the transport of merchandise from Holland, Germany and France. The clearing
returns were even larger, the total number of barges leaving Antwerp amounting to
33,250, measuring 5,939,674 tons. Of this number, 26,435 barges, measxu-ing 3,668,585
tons, came from industrial centers in Belgium, and 6,815, measuring 2,253,089 tons,
from various places in Holland, Germany and France. An examination of the cor-
responding statistics for 1882 shows that the volume of barge traffic at the port of
Antwerp has during the last twenty years increased by some 17 per cent as regards
the number of boats engaged. In tonnage the increase is far more remarkable, the
figures for 1902 showing an advance of about 270 per cent as compared with those for
1882. This dual increase furnishes additional proof of the forward canal policy of
the Belgian Government, and of the advantages thereby accruing. First, as regards


the policy, the increase in the tonnage measurement shows that the canals and the
rivers have been so improved as to admit of their navigation by barges of greater
draft and tonnage. Secondly, as regards the advantages of the policy a compari-
son of the freights for 1888 and 1903 proves that the barge owners, by reason of their
being enabled to use one large barge in the place of two or more smaller ones, as for-
merly, have effected considerable economy thereby in the matter of haulage, wages,
and other details, and have therefore been enabled to transport at lower rates.
Another fact of interest is the steady increase of steam navigation.


The total tonnage received and cleared by barges at the port of
Antwerp in 1882 was about 4,230,000 tons, which had increased by
1900 to nearly 10,300,000; by 1902, to nearly 12,000,000 tons, and is
now probably 16,000,000 tons. In 1882 the tonnage received at
Antwerp from Germany, by way of the inland waterways, was less
than 200,000 tons, which at the present time has been multipHed by
ten. In the same period the tonnage sent from Antwerp to German
destinations by the inland waterways has increased in about the same
proportion. The tonnage received from and sent to Holland has
increased likewise.

The increase in the size and system of the waterways has made
possible a very large increase in the average tonnage of barges. In a
period of twenty years the number of barges engaged in the foreign
trade increased from 5,248 mth an aggregate tonnage of 908,000, to
12,779 with an aggregate tonnage of 4,248,000. Concerning this
foreign trade, Mr. Hertslet writes:

A very interesting feature of this foreign trade is the traffic done by means of the
Rhine barges, which carry goods without transshipment all the year round — except
when prevented by ice — between Antwerp, Cologne, Mannheim, and when the state
of the Rhine permits, which in a normal year is from April to October, Strasburg.
The merchandise thus carried consists for the most part of such goods as grain, oil
seeds, mineral oils, phosphates and nitrates of soda, cotton and wool, timber, agricul-
tural machinery (American), spinning and weaving machinery (British), bones,
artificial manures, and coal.

This cheap and regular means of transport confers on Belgium, through the port of
Antwerp, and on the great Rhenish industrial centers, a boon which it would be
difficult to overestimate.

The barges, long lines of which leave Antwerp almost daily, towed by tugs of some
hundred horsepower, have each on the average a length of 250 feet, with a beam of
from 32 to 36 feet, and a draft, when loaded, of from 7 to 8 feet. Their carrying capac-
ity is on the average 1,500 tons, and they perform the service to Cologne (256^ miles)
in about five days, to Mannheim (418| miles) in seven to eight days, and to Strasburg
(500| miles) in from twelve to fifteen days. There are also express goods steamers,
with a carrying capacity of 500 or 600 tons. These latter have their regular days of
departure, while the number and frequency of the barges depend on the requirements
of the traffic.

The following table will afford an idea of the freights by water and rail from Ant-
werp to the undermentioned Rhenish centers:

[Per ton of coal]

From Antwerp to —

By canal (in 50- \^\^l^^
ton loads). j^^^g^_


Mannheim .

10. 48 to $0. 60
.70 to 1.40
1.20 to 1.65


Note.— The canal rates vary according to the state of the Rhine. The route taken by these barges
starting from Antwerp is down the Maritime Scheldt as far as Hausweert, and thence through the
Sudbevelands Canal, SJ miles, to the exit at Wemeldingen; thence down the East Scheldt, and, turn-
ing to the rtght, up the Mastgat, along the Hollandsche Diep to Dordrecht and Gorinchem, from which
point their course is along the AVaal to the Rhine.

31678— S. Doe. 325, 60-1 26


Lighters also run to Muhlhausen, via the Bruche Canal, but the goods have to be
transshipped at Strasburg, as the canal does not permit of the passage of the Rhine
barges. This same remark applies to the communication with Heilbronn on the
Neckar, transshipment taking place at Mannheim. Works, however, are in progress
for the better navigation of the Neckar, which, when completed, may obviate the
necessity of transshipment.

Another route for the direct transmission of goods by water, between Antwerp and
Strasburg, is via the Belgian and French canal systems, but at present this can only
be utilized by barges with a carrying capacity of some 250 tons, owing to the small
depth of water in the German section of the Marne- Rhine Canal.

Transport by this route occupies a much longer time than via the Rhine, although
the actual distance is no greater, eight weeks being needed for goods to arrive at Stras-
burg, as against fifteen days via the Rhine. This is due to the very numerous locks,
the delays caused by the very crowded state of these canals, and the prohibition of
navigation by night, which is permitted on the Rhine. Freight charges are about 50
per cent higher by this line. The reasons why this tedious route is made use of for
direct transport are, because the state of the Rhine does not always permit of its navi-
gation, and because a certain class of goods, such as grain, bought in Antwerp when
cheap, but not required for use for some time, can be forwarded in this way, and so
escape the expense of warehousing, which would be involved if sent by the Rhine
and therefore delivered at its destination before being required by the purchaser. In
the autumn of each year a large grain fleet arrives at Antwerp from the Black Sea. Of
that portion of the cargoes which is destined for Strasburg and the neighboring centers,
some is transshipped into Rhine barges for quick delivery, and some into smaller barges
for transport over the Belgian and French canal systems. By this means grain pur-
chased at Antwerp when abundant, is delivered by the two routes at the required time.

Average freights to Strasburg


Per ton
of grain


s. d.

Rhine i 6 6

France i 9 6

The route followed by the through barges from Antwei-p to Strasburg, via France,
is that offered by the Canal de Jonction de la Meuse a I'Escaut, the Maastricht-Bois-
le-Duc and Maastricht-Liege Canals, the River Meuse, the Canal de I'Est, and the
Mame-Rhine Canal. The average tonnage of the barges on the Belgian portion of
this route is 350 tons, but for direct transport to Strasburg, for the reason previously
mentioned, only 250-ton barges can be utilized.


Some of the most important canals in Belgium have recently been
greatly widened and deepened, or are now in process of this improve-
ment. Thus canals which formerly permitted a draft of not over
6 feet 10 inches are being increased to 8 feet and are being widened
from 32| to 76^ feet. These changes will permit the use of 1,000-ton
barges as against 350-ton ones. The Belgian Government has in
recent years been spending immense sums on improvements pro-
jected to make the waterways just as large as possible, consistent
with keeping the system as nearly uniform as may be. It must be
understood, in this connection, that the development of a system of
canals is sharply limited by the fact that transshipment of goods is
extremely expensive. It is generally cheaper to haul goods 100
miles in 300-ton barges than to haul them 50 miles in 1,500-ton
barges and then transship for the other half of the journey to barges
of 300 tons. Just as the strength of a chain is determined by its
weakest link, so is the capacity oi a canal determined by its narrowest


and shallowest point. Bearing all these aspects in mind, the Belgian
system probably is the most scientificall}^ organized in Europe. The
Germans, however, in the last fifteen years have been working on a
well-considered scheme designed to introduce the same systematic
organization into their waterways system.

There are no less than 7 waterway routes which transport traffic
between Belgium and France. The most important of these is navi-
gable for barges of 350 tons, and is made up of a series of canals and
sections of canalized rivers. Another direct route between Antwerp
and Paris until recently was adapted only to barges of a 70-ton
maximum burden, but recent improvements of the canal between
Brussels and Charleroi look to a great increase in the size of barges
by this route. It is certainly significant that at a time when there
were 7 water routes available between Antwerp and Paris the Belgian
Government deemed it worth while to spend over $10,000,000 in thus
increasing the capacity of a single one of them. On one of these
routes some experiments were made a number of years ago with
electric traction, but they did not prove successful.


Having thus suggested the importance of the water routes, which
connected the metropolis of Belgium with that of France, it may be
said that there is a similar intimacy of relationship between the
Belgian and Dutch waterway systems. Here again are routes over
which vast traffic moves. One of the most important canals is that
which connects Ghent, Belgium, and Terneuse, Holland. Ghent
is one of the important industrial centers of northern Belgium, but
is not a seaport. For many years vessels of considerable size have
been brouo;ht up to Ghent from the port of Terneuse by a canal
constructed and owned jointly by the Belgian and Netherlands
Governments. It was 21 feet deep, 55 feet wide at the bottom,
and 182 feet at water level. Under treaty between Belgium and
Holland, made several years ago, this very important waterway is
being widened and deepened, so that it will have a depth of 28^ feet,
and will accommodate practically all cargo boats. Immense locks
and anchorages constitute a part of this project. By thus bringing
the largest ship up to an interior town two purposes are served. In
the first place, Ghent becomes practically a seaport, the new canal
doino; for it exactly what the Manchester canal does for Manchester.
Belgium gains the advantage of having another seaport town. This
is of especial importance, because of the peculiar circumstances of
the port of Antwerp. Despite generous expenditures for improve-
ment of this port, the traffic there has grown faster than it has
been possible to provide accommodations. As a result, there has
been for a long time concern lest business should literally swamp
the harbor and Belgium suffer by reason of not having a sufficient
gateway capacity. The project of bringing the sea to Ghent, by
means of a canal large enough to accommodate all kinds of freight
shipping, will thus relieve Antwerp and further guarantee Belgium
against loss of commerce.

Entirely within Belgian territory, there is another canal from
Ghent to the sea by way of Bruges and Ostend. This also has recently
been greatly enlarged, so that from Ostend, on the North Sea, up to


Bruges, large seagoing vessels may be accommodated. From Bruges
inland to Ghent it has likewise been widened to accommodate the
largest barges carried on the Rhine.

There is a canal under construction from Bruges to Zeebnigge, a
little over 6 miles, which enables ocean-going vessels of draft up to 27
feet to go up to Bruges. A great breakwater has been constructed at
Zeebrugge to protect the entrance to this canal. This Bruges-
Zeebnigge canal is o^^^led by a private compan}^ under close Govern-
ment control.


The business of scooping out huge inland harbors at such points
as Bruges and Ghent to accommodate the great ocean-going vessels
which these canals bring up to the cities is quite a matter of fact in
Belgium. Each increase in the capacity of one of the ship canals
involves extension of the inland harbor, so that vessels may be
assured ample docking facilities. There seems almost no limit to the
willingness of the Belgian cities and Government to spend money on
these facilities for a fast-expanding commerce. Americans have
come to view with reasonable equanimity the generous appropriations
which Congress makes for river and harbor improvements, but if
Congress should pass a river and harbor bill which looked to the
initiation of a scheme of improvement that was comparable, con-
sidering the size and wealth of the two countries, with that on which
Belgium has been engaged for many A^ears, it is safe to say that the
countrv would gasp when it saw the figures. Yet Belgium finds the
investment profitable. Somewhere from $10,000,000 to $15,000, 000
will have been spent when the entire scheme of bringing up great
seagoing vessels to Bruges is completed.

A feature of the great seaway from Bruges down to Zeebrugge is its
illustration of how the railways and canals of Belgium work hand
in hand. Along the side of the canal nms a 3-track railroad line,
designed to bring up passengers and freight from the seacoast in
cases where more prompt transportation is desired than the canal
can afford.

Even Brussels, which on smj map has the appearance of being an
inland city, has had the sea brought to its cloor b}^ a canal. For
many years small seagoing vessels have made trips from Brussels,
doing coasting trade to all the points touching on the North Sea.
Some years ago a project was adopted which looked to the enlarge-
ment of the canal from Brussels to Rupel, to 18 feet deep. On this
enlarged canal are 4 locks of immense size; and another harbor is
being dredged out to accommodate the traffic. This new canal for
ocean-woing vessels in turn connects with the big inland ditch from
BnisseTs to Charleroi, one of the most important waterwa3^s to Paris,
so that transshipment of goods will be made easy and economical.
Another inland seaport of no small importance is Louvain, east of
Brussels, which is connected with the ocean by the Louvain Canal,
navigable for seagoing boats of 500 tons.


The following comparison shows rates by the waterways before and
after the great improvements of recent years, and also rail rates:



Table of freight costs — Coal
[Per ton]



1 Distance
I by canal.

By canal.




Straslnirg (via France).

Do I Stmsburg (via Rhine) . ,

Do I Charleroi

Do I Liege

Do i Mons

Do : Paris

Charleroi ; Brussels

Do ; Ghent

Do ! Nancy
















By rail,
1905. o

b $0. 54

6 1.08

c2. 10

6 1.44



c. 60


c. 45

c. 65

el. 20












a In 10-ton loads.

b In 50-ton lots.

c In full loads.

The international systematization of waterways throughout Bel-
gium, Holland, Germany, and France has been hardly less important
than the development of international relations by which railroad
transportation is governed. Under the workings of the Bernese con-
vention of 1890, the railways of nearly all continental Europe are now
operated practically as one system. Likewise, by reason of various
international arrangements for uniform and continuous development
of waterways, the river and canal systems have been linked together
in an international network. Because it so graphically suggests this
international cooperation in systematizing water routes, the following
computation of important direct waterways, in which Belgium, France,
Germany, and Holland are all represented, is here inchuled.

Table showing chief transit and direct trade routts

Name of rotlte.

1. Antwerp to Paris

2. Antwerp to Stras-


3. Antwerp to Stras-


4. Antwerp to Co-


5. Antwerp to Rot-


6. Antwerp to Dun-


7. Antwerp to Char-


8. Antwerp to Char-


9. Dunkirk to Char-


10. Charleroi to Paris.

11. Charleroi to Stras-


fin Belgium,
iln France..

f Liege (in Belgium)

The Rhine.


[Dutch canals:
< In Belgium
I In Holland

/In Belgium

Iln France






200 |j "

170 J



fin France.. .
\ln Belgium. .
Jin Belgium.,
lln France. ..

In Belgium. .

In France. . .

In Germany .


8 f ^
76i 5





Maxi- I Ma.xi-
mum mum
length, beam.

Ft. In.







10 1

130 6


10 124
7 1 111

Ft. In.
16 3

50 3


16 3

16 3

6 6

16 3
16 3


16 3
16 3









Tolls per
ton mile.o

. 002485
. 0004973

. 0007757
. 001553

. 0006212
. 001553
. 001553
. 0004973
. 0007757
. 001553
. 0004973

. 0004973




o "Tolls " here means the charges imposed for use of the waterways. It does not include charges of
the barges for haulage. 6 For steamers. f Also for lifts.



The foreg;oing computation presents an idea of the economy in
transportation effected by the expansion andimprovement of European
waterways. That the business community has been ready and glad to
avail itself of these economies is shown by the statistics of the tonnage
handled in Belgium by the different classes of transportation facilities.
Sixteen years ago, of imports into Belgium, it was calculated by the
Government authorities that 49.8 per cent came by sea, 4.3.5 per
cent by land and rail, and 6.7 per cent by canal and river. Since
that time the proportion received by sea and by rail has been
falling off, and the proj)ortion received by canal and river has been
steadily increasing until now, on the basis of the latest official
reports, it is estimated that about 25 per cent of import traffic is
handled by canal and river, the other 75 per cent being approxi-
mately equally di\dded between rail and ocean.

In export tonnage, the showing for inland waterways is even better.
In 1891, 40.5 per cent of exports were handled by sea, 47.8 per cent
by rail, and only 11.7 per cent by canal and river. These fio^ures
have so far shifted that while it is not possible to give official statistics
of the present relative division, it is estimated that about one-
tliird of the total export tonnage is now handled by canal and river,
and of the other two-thirds, the division considerably favors the rail-
roads as against the sea. It appears that the proportion carried by
rail has continued most nearly constant, the inland waterways having
made their largest gains at the expense of the ocean carriers. This
loss of the ocean carriers to the inland waterways, however, is only a

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 43 of 83)