Promotion of inland waterway transport “NAIADES”
For various political, commercial, legal and environmental reasons, this communication sets out an action programme for the development of inland waterway transport. There are, however, numerous obstacles. The Commission’s main justification for this initiative is the market potential of inland waterway transport. It organises the promotion of inland waterway transport via different activities that contribute to the realisation of the objectives of the action programme.
Communication from the Commission of 17 January 2006 on the promotion of inland waterway transport “NAIADES”: “an Integrated European Action Programme for Inland Waterway Transport” [COM(2006) 6 final – not published in the Official Journal].
In the view of the European Union, economic competitiveness depends in part on transport systems. Its goal is to achieve transition to less energy-intensive, cleaner and safer transport modes. Inland waterway transport is an ideal choice in this respect.
This communication sets out an integrated action programme, and the European Institutions, the Member States and the inland waterway sector are invited to contribute actively to its implementation.
Inland waterway transport is booming
The Commission’s European Transport White Paper sets out to achieve economic competitiveness and sustainable mobility in the medium term. The Commission considers that inland waterway transport can contribute to the sustainability of the transport system.
Inland navigation has undergone significant expansion in the last twenty years. It would also appear that inland navigation is the most environmentally-friendly mode of land transport.
The Commission believes that growth in inland navigation may lead to a reduction in transport costs, which would favour the setting up of businesses. However, employment within the navigation sector could also be developed more. In the view of the Commission, inland navigation infrastructure is not being used at full capacity.
The difficulty in this sector arises from the fragmented market structure, which is chiefly made up of SMEs and where fierce competition restricts reinvestment ability. There is also a shortage of labour and a lack of staff within businesses.
The Commission deplores the fact that transport and logistics firms and public authorities are unaware of the advantages of inland waterway transport.
The institutional framework for inland navigation in Europe is fragmented and ineffective in terms of the use of administrative resources and attention at the political level, creating a complex environment for businesses.
Aims of the Action Programme
This programme is entitled "NAIADES" (Navigation and Inland Waterway Action and Development in Europe), for a global Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) policy. This action programme focuses chiefly on five inter-dependent areas.
- Markets. Although IWT was developed in Western Europe, the aim is to extend these inland navigation services to new growth markets such as the transport of dangerous goods, vehicles, indivisible loads, or even refuse and recycling. The Commission hopes to encourage new multimodal services, which would require close cooperation with freight forwarders, affected businesses and the ports. However, in this sector so deserving of encouragement, problems related to access to capital are restricting financing capacity. Access to capital can be improved by tax incentives, particularly for the most affected operators, namely SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). To promote the prosperity of the IWT sector, efforts must also be made to enhance and simplify the administrative and regulatory frameworks.
- Fleet. The advantages of IWT for transport and environment policy should result in investments being channelled into the vital modernisation and development of the sector. Maintaining good performances from an environmental point of view requires the use of new technologies, and in particular research into commercially viable alternative fuels. Safety, already exemplary in IWT, could be improved further. The legal framework should be enhanced so that new technologies can be implemented more quickly.
- Jobs and skills. There is a severe shortage of labour in the sector. The Commission hopes to attract labour by offering to improve working and social conditions through a constructive social dialogue at European level. As regards the validity of professional qualifications, the paper proposes the mutual recognition of such qualifications throughout the European Union. It is also necessary to guarantee the existence of educational establishments in the sector by adapting training to current needs.
- Image. It would be useful from the Commission’s point of view if general awareness and knowledge of the real potential of the sector in terms of quality and reliability were improved. Promoting the sector would ideally result in the coordination of promotion activities by all the actors concerned. The European IWT promotion and development network is already in existence in some Member States. This network provides businesses with up-to-date information. The opening of promotion centres and other national focal points should make it possible to develop the network. The dissemination of such information is essential for businesses, economic and political decision-makers and the authorities in anticipating market trends. National administrations should try to make such statistics available in a more effective manner. The Commission, professional organisations and the Central Commission for navigation on the Rhine are currently drawing up a European system for the observation of the market.
- Infrastructure. Bottlenecks affect the 36 000 km of inland waterways, restricting their use and reducing their competitiveness. Eliminating these bottlenecks is a priority in the establishment of effective and environmentally-friendly IWT. In the view of the Commission, funding opportunities could emerge in the long term on the basis of a framework for infrastructure charging for all transport modes. The programme places the emphasis on information exchanges relating to traffic management and the monitoring of dangerous goods by the regulatory authorities. River Information Services will enhance the competitiveness and safety of IWT.
The programme makes provision for a range of activities that cannot have an effect if they are not implemented in a coherent manner. Unfortunately, the organisational structure of the IWT sector is characterised a fragmentation of resources and legal provisions. The viability of the objectives established by the Commission in this action programme depends on the discussion of different options:
- the strengthening of cooperation between the international river commissions and the European Commission as established in the area of technical requirements for vessels. However, this perpetuates the fragmentation of rules, as different legal provisions apply in a number of different geographical regions of the EU;
- the accession of the European Commission to the Rhine and the Danube Commissions would strengthen the Community's participation beyond its current observer status. No political agreement has been reached on this approach;
- the creation of an intergovernmental Pan-European Inland Navigation Organisation, on the basis of a new international convention. This option would raise the political profile of IWT but would also generate an administrative burden with the addition of a new institutional layer and the harmonisation of the entire existing legal framework;
- the development of IWT within the Community. The Community is in a position to develop this strategic and comprehensive policy for the single market. At the same time, IWT in Europe has connections with third countries (Switzerland, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia), whose interest must be taken into account.
Over 35 000 km of waterways link hundred of towns and areas of industrial concentration. Since 1 January 1993, inland waterway transport has also benefited from the liberalisation of cabotage, the main effect of which has been the end of the rota system which prevented companies employing these services from having a free choice of carrier. The Commission underlines the need to implement a common transport policy that is safe, effective, competitive, conscious of social concerns and environmentally-friendly. With this aim in mind, it is adopting this communication on the promotion of inland waterway transport. Inland waterways play an important part in the transport of goods in Europe. The various measures and actions indicated in this programme will be further elaborated following deliberation in the Council and Parliament. The Commission will present, if appropriate, legislative proposals and implement the policy measures. The time frame for the implementation of the plan is the period 2006 – 2013.