There are waterways in four separated areas, linked together only by class 1 canals : the RHONE area, from Chalons sur Saône to Fos, the RHINE area from Mulhouse and Nancy to Rotterdam, the SEINE area from Saint Mammes and Compiègne to Le Havre, the NORTH area from Valenciennes to Dunkirk. Only the RHINE and the NORTH areas are connected to the Europesgreat northern network .
Means : The fleet is composed of 2400 boats : 206 tugboats 51 of which are of weak power (less than 185 kilowatts), 1434 self-propelled barges only 289 of which are more than dwt 400 , and 760 barges (not motorized) 137 of which are less than dwt 400 and 188 more than dwt 1500 .
7650 people work for the inland waterways . 4262 civil servants are gathered in a State Organization for French waterways (Voies Navigables de France). They are responsible for keeping locks in good working order. 1147 are independent bargemen, 1820 are wage-earning ones, 310 are firmsadministrative or technical staff of firms, 17 are in charge of haulage on banks, 9 4 are chartering officesstaff members.
The main French river shiping port is the PARISport , that processes 20 million tons a year. It has 300 port installations, 230 of which are private ones, mainly in its GENNEVILLIERS area, 400 acres with port equipments, 500000 square meters of rented warehouses. Its annual turnover is FF280 million .
The other main river ports are : STRASBOURGport with 9 million tons (9 Mt) a year, LE HAVREport (Mt 3 ), THIONVILLE-ILLANGE port (Mt 2.5 ), the port of ROUENport (Mt 2.5 ), METZport (Mt 2 ), DUNKIRKport ( Mt 1.5 ).
The traffic : It has been sharply declining since 1970 as had reached Mt 111, because of a hard decrease and even sometimes the disappearance of coal, ore and oil transport. It was about Mt 64 in 1985, Mt 66 in 1990, Mt 60 in 1992, Mt 54 in 1994 and Mt 51 in 1996.Today the most important traffics concern construction and agricultural products. The traffic of rubble and of waste develops rapidly.
The domestic traffic was Mt 23 17 of which were processed by waterway shipping companies, 94.5 % under French flag. The international traffic was Mt 28 Mt 11 of which were imports and Mt 17 exports. Only 11.5 % were carried under French flag.
Container transport and fluvio-maritime activity : The global number of containers partially collected or delivered through waterways in 1996 was, in France, EVP 103265 (EVP = twenty foot equivalent), 24 % more than in 1995. The growth in 1997 was roughly of the same estimate . 71 % of the traffic is performed from French ports on the RHINE. On the river SEINE, the traffic, very small, increased from EVP 5800 in 1995 to 11355 in 1996, and on the river RHONE from 4600 to 6300. EVP 2700 with Antwerpen.
Taking all ways together , the Seine and the Rhône rivers , the river and sea activity (by ships able to sail on sea and on rivers) was a bit less than Mt 1.1 for 179 million ton-kilometers. It decreased by 10 %. Half was made on the river SEINE, 85% of which performed by worked by PARISport.
Waterway shipping companiess : They work by sectors. On the RHINE sector, the most important firm is CFNR (French shipping company on the Rhine). Its headquarters are in STRASBOURG. Its staff is composed of 400 people. On the SEINE sector, the most important shipowner is CFTin LE HAVRE. Its staff is composed of 300 people. It also works a little on the RHONE sector. There are also, among others, SLM , linked to Touage Investment in PARIS and UBIF, at Conflans Sainte Honorine, that units small craftsmen.