Council conclusions on “Inland waterway transport – exploiting its full potential” were adopted on 3 December 2018. The conclusions acknowledge the significant contribution that this efficient, safe and sustainable mode of transport can make towards mitigating the negative effects of the transport sector as a whole. The conclusions stress the need for further efforts to exploit the full potential of inland waterway transport, and call on the Commission to develop a follow-up programme to NAIADES II. This should be launched by the end of 2020.
The Council Conclusions are in line with the Commission’s current activities and foreseeable further actions in the area. EU policy on inland navigation is essential for decarbonisation. It is the most CO2 efficient transport mode and possesses a lot of unused potential. The Ministers of Transport emphasised the importance of inland waterway transport as part of the entire logistic chain and underlined that further action and support is needed to unlock the full potential of inland waterway transport as an efficient, safe and sustainable transport system and the development of the environmental performance of the fleet while preserving the competitive advantages of inland waterway transport.
Infrastructure is key to deliver on major EU policies
Infrastructure remains the backbone of the industry. The proper maintenance of the Danube is of particular concern. In the past years different sections in the river suffered from a lack of maintenance leading to unreliability of the sector and huge losses for both the freight and passenger carrying industry. Where 75% of inland waterway transport is cross-border, seamless infrastructure is essential for green & smart services as part of the EU decarbonisation strategy.
The Transport Ministers of the participating countries, with the exception of the Hungarian Minister, signed as well the Danube Ministerial Conclusions on effective waterway infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance on the Danube and its navigable tributaries by the Ministers of Transport of the Danubian countries. In their Conclusions, the ministers have once again agreed to step up fairway rehabilitation and maintenance efforts in the years to come in order to improve fairway conditions according to the relevant target values defined in the Fairway Master Plan. The ministers announced to allocate the necessary national budgets as outlined in the National Action Plans and to make full use of EU co-financing opportunities for the implementation of required measures.
The Danube Ministerial Conclusions feature the shared vision of the riparian EU and non-EU countries regarding the Danube such as good navigation status, harmonised control forms, digitalisation, rehabilitation of strategically important lock facilities, reduction of administrative barriers and greening of the inland fleet. In this regard, the ministers welcomed the first set of harmonised border control forms (arrival and departure reports, crew lists as well as passenger list) – the results of the joint Working Group of EUSDR PA1a and PA11 & project DANTE – and recommended their further application in the Danube region.