The company now intends to replace 500 of these lorries with inland water transport. Why contribute to road congestion when you can use shipping instead? Igepa performed some calculations and then called on De Vlaamse Waterweg for support. On 10 December, the first paper barge made its trial run to Aalter.
Every year, Igepa is supplied with over 10,000 tonnes of paper by The Navigator Company, a Portugese supplier known for their care for the environment. The loads arrive at the port of Rotterdam by container ship and then travel the rest of the way by lorry. As Aalter features its own waterfront, they gradually came to consider an alternative solution; piloting the ships to the port of Antwerp instead and then continuing by barge down the Ghent-Bruges canal to end up mere hectometres from Igepa in Aalter.
„Many practical challenges must be overcome before dreams become reality“, as Igepa CEO Dirk Salens is well aware. „We therefore made sure to engage professional consultants from the beginning. Not just due to functional considerations, but also to monitor the costs. There isn’t much point to setting up a new supply chain that operates at a loss, after all.“ Igepa met with transport specialists from De Vlaamse Waterweg, who presented them with extensive calculations as to load capacities and available quays.
They also made grateful use of the expertise of Tieleman, a local crane hire company. Igepa’s greatest challenge may have been the logistics, as their former two lorries a day were to be replaced by a single massive 400-tonne load every 2.5 weeks, the equivalent of 25 lorry loads. Availability of additional labour, the necessary warehouse space, how to achieve a smooth transfer from the barge to the trailers; these were all issues that needed to be addressed. They worked out the entire process in detail, and looked forward eagerly to seeing the results in practice on 10 December.