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Vice President of the European Commission
NAIADES II Launching event/Strasbourg
10 September 2013
Thank you very much, Mrs Trautmann and good morning everybody. It’s a great pleasure to be sailing with you through the port of Strasbourg this morning. I know that all of us on board have an interest in ports and waterborne transport, but I wonder how many of you know that we already send 500 million tonnes of freight along our rivers and canals each year. That's the equivalent of 25 million trucks that are NOT driving along our already congested motorways.
However, the problem we face is that even 500 million tons is not enough. And to increase the amount of freight going by water, the waterway transport industry needs to develop over the longer term into a high quality sector. We can help, but the industry needs to act as well. We both need to remove the bottlenecks holding it back, and we need to invest in the skills of its workforce.
In order to help achieve that we at the Commission have today adopted a programme of measures called Naiades II. The Naiades, in case you are wondering, were a type of water nymph in Greek mythology. Our Naiades is a seven year programme covering four main areas of activity.
First and foremost, we want to make it easier for freight to move around. Many of the locks that barges pass through, and the bridges that they pass under, need to be upgraded. Big rivers like the Seine and the Scheldt need wider canals between them if large vessels are to navigate from one to the other. Implementing the TEN-T guidelines will have an important role to play here.
Then we want to make waterborne transport even greener than it already is. We will be proposing new standards for marine engines and encouraging operators to switch from diesel to LNG - liquid natural gas.
But however good waterways are, they also have to link in with other forms of transport. And that’s another frequent source of bottlenecks. So we will be looking at better connections between rail, road, seaborne transport and inland waterways. Strasbourg, with its Northern Container Terminal, is a good example of those links in practice. We need more like this.
Finally, twenty-first century waterways will need a twenty-first century workforce. At present, although a boat-master’s qualifications may be recognised from one EU country to another, the picture is much more complex and fragmented for his or her crew. We want to modernise and harmonise qualifications and the way they are recognised.
I should mention that in all these areas we are enjoying a very fruitful collaboration with the CCNR – the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine – whose secretary general is with us today.
We are all having a very easy journey round the port this morning. I would like the journey to be just as easy for all that freight.