Foundation Studies

May 16, 2022

Waterborne Competitiveness: U.S. and Foreign Investments in Inland Waterways

The National Waterways Foundation (NWF) commissioned a study by the Eno Center for Transportation that concludes that the ability of the U.S. to maintain a position of strength depends on a regular assessment of infrastructure needs and multimodal development strategies. Aging infrastructure and competition from other countries’ inland waterway networks pose risks to the economic and national security advantage long enjoyed by shippers and the broader U.S. economy.  


The study focuses on the current state of the U.S. inland waterways system and compares it to others from around the world, using case studies of river systems from Europe (Rhine River, Danube River), Asia (Yangtze River, Mekong River), and South America (Amazon River, Paraná-Paraguay Rivers) to compare investment levels, commodity flows, governance, and investment priorities. The case studies also reveal the effects of foreign direct investments on internal and external good movement, including the role of investment in other uses such as damming for hydroelectric power, on the capacity to move goods to global markets.