Source: World Bank, Ports, Maritime & Logistics: Inland Water Transportation (IWT) Development.
A waterway is a body of water available for commercial navigation with an inland waterway consisting of non-oceanic portions such as coastal waterways, rivers, lakes, and canals. Although the Chinese waterway system is the most extensive in the world, only a small portion of it, 5,000 km, is deep enough to accommodate fluvial ships of more than 500 tons requiring a draft of more than 2.75 meters. For Russia, geographical factors such as climate (long and harsh winters) and the north-south orientation of its rivers, prevent a practical commercial usage of most of its waterways. The fluvial waterway systems of the United States and Europe are of a lower extent, but they are able to support larger fluvial ships.
Inland waterways remain active systems of commercial circulation. Recently, container barge services have been established in Western Europe, particularly around the Rhine / Scheldt Delta. This underlines the renewed importance that waterways can have for containerization. In the United States, about 90% of all cargo transported on inland waterways is using the Mississippi and Ohio River System, primarily through bulk shipping on barges to the ports around the Mississippi river delta. Therefore, it is not necessarily the length of the waterway system that matters, but the regions and commercial markets it services.