Exchange of views on development in the EU inland waterways transport organized by the EPP/ European Parliament/Coordinator in Committee on Transport and Tourism


On 12th November 2020 the General Director of the Secretariat of the Danube Commission, Mr. Manfred Seitz, took part online in Exchange of views on development in the EU inland waterways transport organized by the EPP/ European Parliament/Coordinator in Committee on Transport and Tourism.

See below his statement delivered during the videoconference.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many important requirements for a modern and efficient European inland navigation have already been pointed out by previous speakers. I would like to use my statement to address the specific concerns from of the Danube.

With around 40 million tons of transported goods, Danube navigation makes an important contribution to the environmentally friendly management of goods flows in the Danube region and enables numerous industries (agriculture, chemicals, steel industry, to name but a few) to successfully compete in the global marketplace with cost-effective logistics solutions.

However, the economic potential of Danube navigation and the Danube ports is far from exhausted.

What do we need to tap the full potential?

  1. Reliable waterway infrastructure:
    1. For this we have to use the various EU funds to implement the missing hydro-technical projects which ensure Good Navigation Status and support Good Environmental Status as part of the revised TEN-T network.
    2. We also should look to the potential of connecting waterways and canals such as the river Sava and the Begej canal just to name two of them.
  2. The infrastructure when widely build with EU taxpayer’s money must be maintained through state-of-the art waterway maintenance. This has to be ensured in the revised TEN-T regulation.
  3. The river and river-seaports must be further developed into intermodal logistics hubs and priority locations for business/regional economic development which requires a close cooperation of EU transport and regional development programs & funds. MoS services linking the Danube seaports with destinations in the other ports of the Black Sea region have to be expanded.
  4. We also need State Aid Schemes which support the modernization of the Danube fleet. Modernization means here “Greening” and “adapting the fleet to new markets”. For this the EU Danube States should be pushed to use the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The Interreg/DTP project Grendel delivered a Model State Aid Scheme which enables a quick start.
  5. However, investing into green vessels and operating them must create a business case (an economic advantage) for the operators: for this we have to provide incentives such as substantially reduced fees for ports and canals as well as tax incentives, the implementation of the polluter-pays principle (in terms of tons-kilometer) and we have to ensure a fair level playing field in relation to rail and road
  6. Greening the fleet requires clean alternative fuels. Unfortunately, there is not a silver bullet technology yet. In the transition phase of the next 10-15 years we will see various technical solutions which enable us to reach stepwise the objective of (close) to zero emissions in inland navigation. The solutions will depend on the type of vessels and on the operational profile.
  7. Therefore, flagship RTD & pilot projects funded by EU are essential to bring a critical mass of alternatively fueled vessels into operation and thus generate an economically critical demand for alternative fuels.
  8. Out of those technologies we will see being applied refers to Hydrogen. Therefore, we should as quickly as possible provide the regulatory framework for the use of Hydrogen as fuel and cargo in all forms (fuel cell, LoHC, ammonia in internal combustion engines, compressed & liquid).
  9. When talking about modernizing the Danube inland vessel fleet, we have to see the economic opportunities in re-building a green and efficient Danube fleet in European shipyards with European advanced technologies such as Fuel Cell technology, automation, etc. and thus creating pilot markets for European companies in the global competition.
  10. We should revise the RIS Directive and transform it into a core instrument for further digitalization of the IWT sector.
  11. Last but not least we have to invest significantly in the people. People working on the vessels, in the ports and in the companies along a waterborne supply chain.

But we also have to strengthen the institutional capacity, the human resources and skills in the waterway & port administrations as well as shipping authorities in order to provide better framework conditions for the creation and implementation of EU funded projects and programs.