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How can you combat rising fuel prices and choked roadways -- while still being environmentally sensitive? French supermarket Franprix is floating food to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Franprix, part of the Casino chain, recently reinstated waterway deliveries to the heart of Paris. The supermarket is supplying 100 of its city stores via barges which are unloaded by crane on the Seine near the Eiffel Tower, with the goods then delivered to the shops by means of a short truck ride.

The barges arrive daily from a warehouse to the east of Paris, bypassing the capital’s traffic-choked ring-road and saving the retailer 23,500 gallons of diesel fuel annually, according to global news reports. At full capacity, the largest barge convoys can carry 5,000 tons of goods -- equivalent to 250 trucks -- at half the cost of motorized transport while using one-third the fuel.

Waterway use in France has risen 20 percent in the past five years but still accounts for a modest 3.6 percent of all freight delivery. French waterway authority VNF hopes to double that figure by 2025. “The economic equation will only get better with time,” says VNF development director Philippe Mauge, who worked with Franprix on its aquatic delivery system.

Department store Galeries Lafayette is reported to be interested in sharing Franprix’s logistics system. Meanwhile, Franprix is toying with increasing waterway deliveries with an eye on boosting economies of scale.

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