A HUGE rise in the volume of goods traffic in Germany has been forecast over the next few years. A report published by the Federal Transport Ministry in Bonn estimates that goods traffic will increase by about 95 per cent and passenger traffic by 30 per cent by the year 2010. Goods traffic in transit through Germany will double while passenger traffic is expected to treble. Providing modern inland waterways are usable, inland shipping can take on a large proportion of this traffic. The ministry report estimates an 84 per cent increase in inland shipping by 2010. As a favourably priced, environmentally friendly and safe means of transport, inland shipping already takes some of the pressure off the road and rail network. In what was West Germany in 1993, it accounted for around 20 per cent of all domestic goods traffic, which totalled 220 million tonnes. But in the former East Germany inland shipping only played an insignificant role in terms of the total volume of traffic. Inland shipping is cheaper than rail or road transport in tonnes/kilometres terms. For example, for the amount of cargo that fits into one combined tug-and-barge unit, 185 metres long, a train with 400 goods wagons would be needed. Inland shipping is also environmentally-friendly as it causes less pollution and creates no traffic jams. The German inland waterways' fleet is made up of 3,300 ships with a total cargo capacity of around 3.4 million tonnes. About 45 per cent of the volume of cargo transport on German inland waterways is carried by domestic vessels while Dutch ships account for 43 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the vessel owners are individuals. The Federal Transport Ministry has launched a research and development programme to come up with the inland waterways vessel of the year by 2000. Currently billions are being spent on building goods traffic centres, mainly in eastern Germany (with three alone around Berlin). The aim is to ensure better links between the various carriers through the network of canals, railways and roads. The inland ports in the year 2000 will not just handle cargo but also guarantee the presence of industrial or service enterprises which will give a boost to the economy of the regions.