Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Towards quality inland waterway transport. NAIADES II

Author (Corporate)
Series Title
Series Details (2013) 623 final (10.9.13)
Publication Date 10/09/2013
Content Type ,

The European Union’s inland waterway network spans 20 Member States with about 37,000 kilometres of inland waterways. Every year, these transport around 500 million tons of cargo, in particular in the densely populated and congested areas of Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium. These areas are irrigated by the Rhine, Scheldt, Meuse and Seine rivers and are connected with the Danube river.

The Inland Waterway Transport sector is small in relative terms but makes nevertheless with 140 billion tonne kilometres a considerable contribution to the EU’s transport system. It plays a significant role in bringing goods between the EU’s busiest ports and the hinterland. The EU’s largest ports would never have developed into the highly efficient logistical hubs they are today without inland navigations' contribution. These ports depend on inland navigation to reduce congestion in their hinterland and to further grow.

Inland navigation transport is energy efficient and contributes to the goals of the low-carbon economy, set out in the EU’s Transport Policy White Paper. Furthermore, low noise levels also make it convenient for freight transport in the densely populated areas they transit in and service. However, inland navigation stands to lose its comparative environmental advantage if no action is taken to further reduce air pollutant emissions, in particular in view of the progress the road transport sector is making due to stringent emissions limits.

The Commission’s NAIADES action programme adopted in 2006 aimed to bolster the advantages of inland waterway transport and tackle a number of obstacles that could prevent it from being used to its full potential. Many measures introduced under the NAIADES programme have been implemented with the support of funding instruments such as TEN-T, Marco Polo, Leonardo Da Vinci, IPA and the Seventh Research Framework Programme. Further measures, such as the harmonisation of technical requirements for vessels, are still being developed by the Commission, while other measures, in particular those relating to harmonisation efforts, have not started.

An appraisal of the current NAIADES programme stated that NAIADES has had a significant mobilising effect in the Member States and amongst the stakeholders. However, the economic and environmental prospects for inland navigation have continued to worsen and progress in overcoming key infrastructure bottlenecks has been limited. Furthermore, the sector is currently going through difficult times and is suffering from overcapacity in certain segments and from continued fragmentation of market players, on top of the general slowdown of the EU economy since 2008.

In view of the opportunities and challenges that the sector is facing, the Commission has decided to update and renew the NAIADES programme until 2020, and to align it with the Transport White Paper. The NAIADES II programme focuses on making long-term structural changes in the inland waterway transport sector, to enable it to contribute fully to the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims at smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. For this to happen, the quality of the sector’s operating conditions should be improved, including infrastructure, environmental performance, markets and innovation, jobs and skills and integration into the logistics chain. The EU, Member States, regional authorities, River Commissions, other international organisations, and the sector itself all have a role to play.

The Communication establishing the NAIADES II programme is accompanied by two measures, which represent the first step towards implementation:
- Legislative proposal for a Directive laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 2006/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council;
- Legislative proposal amending Council Regulation No 718/1999 on a Community fleet capacity policy to promote inland waterway transport.

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Related Links
EUR-Lex: COM(2013)623: Follow the progress of this communication through the decision-making procedure
EUR-Lex: SWD(2013)324: Greening the fleet: reducing pollutant emissions in inland waterway transport
ESO: Background information: Making better use of Europe's waterways

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