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Sea-river transport in the Covid-19 period: crisis and opportunity?

This week, we are looking at the situation of river and sea transport, which, like other modes of transport, has been affected by the worldwide Covid-19 epidemic. Organization, adaptation, resilience and cooperation have been the key words in maintaining essential port and river transport services. While some sectors have been halted or are likely to remain sluggish for many months to come, the Covid-19 crisis is also seen as an opportunity to reconsider the place of ports and waterborne transport in the economy.

We have interviewed two of our members, on both sides of the Atlantic.



  • Daniel Dagenais is Vice-President, Operations at the Port of Montreal, which handled more than 40 MT of cargo from around the world through its direct connections in more than 140 countries. The Saint Lawrence River, which borders the Port, connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes region, one of the economic lungs of North America.
  • Thierry Guimbaud is the managing director of VNF (Voies Navigables de France), a central waterway player in France, which operates 6,700 km of canals and rivers. VNF provides three essential public service missions: promoting river logistics, developing the areas around the waterways and managing water resources and the safety of the hydraulic network.

Adapting and being resilient: Ports as essential services


Both of them are detailing the measures they have quickly put in place to continue their essential mission in global supply chains and stimulate activity: to ensure that goods and bulk continue to flow and that cities can be supplied, including with critical medical equipment during this period.

Unlike air transport, for example, inland waterway transport has even proved to be particularly resilient and is helping to build a more secure and leaner supply chain.

I think that the efficiency of this mode of transportation, its capacity to transport large volumes with the least environmental impact, the robustness of VNF, the national infrastructure manager, and the other waterway players in France on the Rhine and the Rhone are lessons to be learnt Thierry Guimbaud

Putting waterborne transport at the heart of recovery


The other lesson to be drawn from this crisis, in their view, is the necessary cooperation between river stakeholders on the one hand, and between the river and maritime sectors on the other, in order to maintain trade by water, but also with all the other players in the logistics chains. This will also be one of the keys to developing the share of this mode of transport in the future and positioning it at the heart of economic recovery.

It is one thing for ports like Montreal to have reorganized…. But it is also necessary that the entire international maritime and logistics chain be aligned and oriented towards the same objectives so that we can continue to play our role, which is more essential than ever before – Daniel Dagenais

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