• 2022 December 5 14:13

    Council of the EU issues conclusions on the "Ongoing development of inland waterway transport"

    Council of the EU issues conclusions on the "Ongoing development of inland waterway transport".

    Council recognises the importance of inland waterway transport on the path towards zero-emission mobility as a sustainable and less congested mode of transport, and underlines the need to fully develop its potential in a sustainable manner, in concrete steps and through appropriate measures at both Union and Member-State level, while ensuring its competitiveness.

    Council recognises the need to take into account the different circumstances in the Member States with regard to the potential of inland waterways.

    Council stresses the importance of developing strategies for tackling the impact of inland waterway transport on climate change and the environment and vice versa by means of dedicated research and connected investments.

    Council recognises the strong impact of climate change on inland waterway transport, in particular on navigability, operations and water management, as evidenced by ground-water level changes but also by the severe droughts and periods of heavy rainfall in recent years, and underlines the need to improve navigability by implementing the Good Navigation Status in line with the TEN-T guidelines.

    Council recognises the key role of inland waterway transport in the decongestion of urban agglomerations and in the shipment of heavy goods and large volumes of important construction materials, agricultural, steel, chemical and energy products, including the export of Ukrainian goods through the Solidarity Lanes, in particular via the Danube.

    Council underlines the need to tackle all the remaining administrative and infrastructure bottlenecks in the short, medium and long term, while respecting environmental law, in order to increase the efficiency and the capacity of inland waterway transport and ensure safe navigation in general.

    Council focuses on the cornerstones of effective inland waterway transport and the need for further development and coordination in the following areas:
     – fleet renewal, where appropriate, to achieve greater transport efficiency, economic operation of smaller vessels and where possible zero-emission mobility, adaptation to shallow waters while taking into account the need to decarbonise transport and enhance climate resilience, safety of navigation by respecting and protecting the local environmental conditions of each particular inland waterway;
     – reliable, sustainable and continuously well-maintained infrastructure with adequate, economically feasible navigability, in particular, during low-water periods, ensuring swift links to other transport modes;
     – safe and secure workplaces for workers, even in unforeseen situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic;
     – digitalisation to support the development of all the above as well as automation, while considering energy efficiency and easy-to-recycle equipment.

    Council supports the preparation and adoption of standards for technical requirements, qualification of crew members and information technology by CESNI, and further recommends the development of technical standards for the use of alternative fuels, sustainable and zero emission technologies and automation as well as professional qualification standards, as part of the abovementioned CESNI standards.

    Council welcomes plans for smart and sustainable improvements to inland waterway transport and ports. Invites the Commission to present its proposal for the revision of current Union legislation in the field of River Information Services, while taking into account the work done by CESNI in this field and envisaging a permanent operational structure for a single point of access, with a view to improving harmonisation and interoperability, where geographically possible, and also supporting research on climate resilience and smart shipping.

    Council considers that inland waterways and ports are an essential component of multimodal transport and thus should be integrated in the revision of the Combined Transport Directive. The aim should be to establish the Directive as an effective tool, supporting multimodal freight operations, with a particular focus on seamless cross-border connections and interoperability, where geographically possible, which would be further strengthened through digitalisation of the inland waterway transport sector.

    Council encourages the Member States to continue and intensify their cooperation in the harmonised implementation and operation of River Information Services (RIS), as well as the implementation of the eFTI regulation for information related to transport of goods, thereby enabling better corridor management.

    Council acknowledges that the inland waterway transport sector faces the challenge of an ageing workforce and therefore, must encourage more diverse, age- and gender-balanced workforce as well as lateral entrants from other sectors.

    Council stresses the need for Member States and the sector to act to ensure the presence and availability of qualified personnel in the sector and in their administrations also by making education and qualifications more in line with the green and digital transition and therefore fit for the future requirements of the labour market.

    Council encourages the Member States to prepare and implement long-term strategies, while coordinating actions where necessary within the NAIADES expert group, and build on national support schemes to achieve the objectives of the NAIADES III Action Plan.

    Council highlights the work done within the PLATINA3 project as part of the NAIADES III Action Plan and encourages the Commission to support a PLATINA4 project from 2023.

    Council stresses the importance of appropriate regulatory and financial measures, as well as private and public investments, at both EU and Member-State level for the implementation of the NAIADES III Action Plan and for compliance with legislation connected to inland waterway transport and ports, while maintaining a level playing field. With the costs of materials and energy increasing rapidly, it is essential to prioritise funding for research, innovation and the future-proofing of inland waterway transport, aimed in particular at infrastructure improvement, but also at fleet innovation and emissions reduction.

    Council encourages the Commission to take all of the above into account when preparing further calls for proposals under the CEF, Horizon Europe and other Union instruments and programmes.

    Council stresses that the private sector also carries a responsibility for achieving and contributing to the goals concerning the modal shift, digitalisation, climate protection and climate adaptation and calls on the sector to intensify their initiative in light of current developments.

    Council ecknowledges the importance of existing international cooperation mechanisms and the expertise of river navigation commissions for cross-border coordination of waterway infrastructure development and their crucial role in developing inland waterways to their full potential.

    Council encourages the Commission, Member States and international partners, such as the CCNR, the Danube Commission, International Sava River Basin Commission, UNECE and EUSDR, to work together with the aim of improving connectivity, securing seamless navigation and opening new market opportunities, and invites the Commission to coordinate between EU policies and the policies of these international partners.

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