Transport chains enable to connect origins and destinations through a sequence of modes. Some sequences can be labeled as conventional since they use rail or road segments to service the hinterland and intermodalism at two maritime ports (A). Where geographical and market conditions are suitable, a fluvial link can be used instead with shipments consolidated or broken down at maritime ports (B). With river/sea shipping, it is possible to bypass maritime ports and go directly from a fluvial port to another (C). The benefits can be related to avoiding congested roadways and seaports.
River/sea shipping has enabled the setting of a new intermodal dynamics in the hinterland, particularly with new inland terminals and related investment along the waterways. Some fluvial ports are able to consolidate their role as regional distribution centers. This is notably the case in Western Europe (Belgium, Germany, France, Netherlands, England) and around the Baltic Sea (Sweden, Finland) with river /sea ships ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 dwt. However, river/sea shipping has limited economies of scale and is consequently limited to support niche trade opportunities and feeder services.