River Transport: Restaurants, Bars, and Hotels in Paris Now Delivered by the Seine

The mechanical arm of the Zulu 3 takes care of unloading Coca-Cola pallets, Badoit bottles, and beer barrels at the Debilly port in Paris XVI. This long barge, about 50 meters long, has made its mark on the Parisian landscape.

In recent weeks, we have seen it carrying the future stones of Notre-Dame (IVe) and the paving stones for the new Champs-Élysées (VIIIe) roadway. Since June, it has been transporting beverages – about 3,000 different products – throughout the capital. This trial will continue.

Here’s how it works. The evening before, OBD Grand Paris, an independent leader in beverage distribution in Paris and Île-de-France, delivers its 30 pallets of cans and bottles from its warehouse located just 2 km away to the port of Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine). Once loaded onto the Zulu 3, this barge sails at night – about three hours of navigation to cover the 35 km – to the port of the XVIe. The transport is provided by Blue Line Logistics, a subsidiary of Sogestran. Trucks and other electric trailer bikes then receive the cargo and ensure the final kilometer to the cafes, restaurants, and hotels in Paris.

“The boat can carry up to 300 tons, compared to 6 tons for a truck…”

“The main advantage of the boat is the amount of goods it can transport,” explains Alexis Chapolard, Director of France for Blue Line Logistics, the company that provides the Zulu 3. “Beverages are well-suited for this, as they are heavy and dense products. A pallet weighs about 500 kg. A boat can carry up to 300 tons, compared to 6 tons for a truck…”

Port Debilly, Paris XVI. The barge is self-unloading. In 10 minutes, the trucks are ready to leave and deliver to the cafes, hotels, and restaurants of the capital. Samuel Salamagnon – Groupe Sogestran

Initiated in mid-June after an unsuccessful trial in 2022, the experimentation conducted on Tuesdays and Fridays at the Debilly port and the Austerlitz port (XIIIe) has been a success. “It is a complete operational success,” says Pascal Clément, General Director of OBD Grand Paris. “We have much better control over delivery times, the boats are never late, and our employees spend less time behind the wheel, in traffic. We are winners all around.”

It is also a win for carbon footprint. “A boat like the Zulu consumes 2 to 2.5 times more than a truck, but it can carry the equivalent of 50 trucks on board,” says Alexis Chapolard. Furthermore, the boats return with empty containers. “The Coca-Cola bottle you drink on the terrace is returned and reused,” emphasizes Pascal Clément.

“Mixed use” of the ports of Paris

The French family-owned SME delivers 2,000 customers every week in the Greater Paris area, 80% of which are within the city limits. They serve large breweries, fast food chains, palaces, as well as nightclubs. They are now considering optimizing the waterway logistics from their warehouses in Villeneuve-la-Garenne (Hauts-de-Seine). “We are highly seasonal. Starting in spring 2024, we will definitely increase the traffic on the Seine,” insists the General Director.

“The goal is to switch to daily deliveries,” confirms Morgane Sanchez, Director of the Paris Seine agency at Haropa. “We are considering a third port, in central Paris.” The experimentation is also being formalized in a three-year agreement between the different stakeholders. Among them, Haropa, which plays a facilitating role, recognizes the “mixed use” of Parisian quays, like the Debilly port, with its early morning deliveries of goods and the arrival of tourists at the foot of the Iron Lady.

And what about the Olympics?

The transportation of construction materials and elements for the construction industry on the Seine has significantly developed in recent years. The finished product sector, such as the wooden housing in the athletes’ village, is also investing in water logistics. “This mode of transport is slow but reliable, and it attracts companies, like Ikea, Franprix, and now OBD Grand Paris,” observes Morgane Sanchez. Other shippers are seriously considering this solution.

What about the barriers, stands, pontoons, and other elements necessary for the organization of the 2024 Paris Olympics? “We dream that some of them will be transported by the river,” concludes Morgane Sanchez. Pascal Clément also expresses this wish: “We should be able to use the Seine to the fullest to anticipate the traffic issues during the competition.” If the stakeholders are on the same page, finding the right formula remains a challenge. Discussions are ongoing.

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