In Europe, cargos such as furniture, milk, computers, clothes, bricks, waste, recyclables and oversized indivisible loads, use the river over long and short hauls. The reliability and predictablity of regular barge services, along with lower cost and environmental benefits, compensate for the benefit of speed.
One of the features of European river commerce is the availability of intermodal support, that is, a system of ports that allow simplified transfer of cargo to train and truck to complete door-to-door delivery.
Barges carrying containers augment the commercial versatility of the usual bulk commodity cargo seen on most USA rivers. Even commodities like grains, which dominate the Illinois economy, are beginning to utilize container shipping.
Containerized shipment - the transport of commodities via steel boxes primarily 20 feet by 40 feet in lenth (TEU) - has been rapidly increasing over the past several years. 2007 saw 181,701 TEUs of exported soybeans : rising 113% from 2006.