The company said that goods from its Delacre factories in Lambermont, Belgium and Nieppe, France would now go by road to an inland container terminal in Willebroek, Belgium and on to Antwerp using barges. From Antwerp, the goods will go on to the US and Canada.
The initiative comes off the back off a pilot project from the Flemish government to make food manufacturers aware of the benefits of canal transport.
Nico Van Puyenbroek, United Biscuits logistics and distribution manager for Northern Europe, told BakeryAndSnacks.com: "We are doing this mainly as part of our sustainability strategy and it represent sour first shift from road to waterway."
“Our products for the US and Canadian markets are mainly chocolate coated biscuits that must be stored and transported at a constant low temperature so reefer containers are the only option as they allow us to control the temperature and keep the products cool.”
"The benefit is mainly on the ecological front. It offers no operational benefits"
Van Puyenbroek said that each container would save 31% CO2 emissions versus road transport. However, he said that although the method was not more expensive than using road, it offered no real cost savings.
He said around 70% of produce bound for the US and Canada from United Biscuits' two Delacre factories is currently going through shipping lines
“At the moment we’re starting with three out of six shipping lines but by March 2012 we hope to have 80% of our exported goods for the US and Canadian markets being transported via barge,” said Van Puyenbroeck.
“We’re concentrating on outbound shipping initially but there may also be potential for inbound transportation as well further down the line,” he added.
The Flemish government do not offer any incentives for using this transport method, but Van Puyenbroek hopes this will change in the future.
"It might still come. The Flemish government recently obtained approval from the European Commission to provide subsidies but mainly for pallettes on inland waterways. We hope that this will be a trigger to further increase volumes on canal transport through incentives."