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European Law Monitor newsInland navigation on the right course: the progress of 'NAIADES'

What is the NAIADES Action Programme about?

Last year the European Commission published the so-called 'NAIADES'[1] Action Programme in order to promote inland waterway transport in Europe. The EU has for some time recognised the great potential that Europe's inland waterways offer for freight transport. Transport by inland waterways is reliable, cost-effective, safe and energy-efficient; it has low emissions and external costs and can offer important spare capacities. Promoting inland waterway transport can therefore help to meet our main policy objectives, namely to guarantee a cleaner environment and a more efficient use of scarce resources and infrastructure networks.

The Action Programme has five strategic aims: (1) improving market conditions, (2) modernising the fleet, (3) developing the human capital, (4) strengthening the image of inland navigation and (5) improving the infrastructure. It is composed of various kinds of actions which are either of a legislative nature (e.g. harmonisation of different rules); of a policy coordinative nature (like the TEN-T Coordinator) or of a supportive nature (support programmes at national or European level). The timeframe for implementing of the programme is 2006-2013.

Who is concerned?

The programme has been endorsed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. It is addressed to all levels responsible for inland waterway transport: the industry itself including the social partners, the Member States responsible for the infrastructure networks, the European Commission and other institutions.

What has been achieved so far in the framework of the NAIADES programme?

       * The Commission has put forward a number of legislative proposals in order to improve the environmental performance of inland navigation. These initiatives include the transport of dangerous goods by inland waterways or lowering the sulphur content of fuel used for inland waterway vessels.
       * New EU legislation entered into force in the fields of technical requirements for vessels, river information services and statistical reporting.
       * The screening of administrative and regulatory barriers to inland navigation has been launched. This aims to create a favourable regulatory business environment for companies active in the inland navigation sector.
       * Regarding the financial support, a greater use of the available EU programmes (TEN, FEDER, Marco Polo, RTD FP 7) for inland waterway transport projects can be observed. Several Member States have set up aid schemes which have been approved by the Commission. In parallel, the Commission has commissioned an inventory of aid schemes for inland waterway transports (Funding Handbook).
       * In the framework of the European social dialogue, the negotiations on working time arrangements, specific to this sector, are about to start.
       * In the light of NAIADES, Member States have also taken measures to promote inland waterway transport, for example by giving financial support for the start-up of new services (e.g. container transport, household waste transport in urban areas), and for cleaner engines and more efficient propulsion techniques on board inland waterway vessels. Fleet modernisation can also be encouraged through tax-free reinvestment schemes. In certain areas, joint (private-public) initiatives have been undertaken to enhance transport on smaller waterways. Some Member States have taken actions to make the inland waterway transport profession more attractive (by supporting training schemes or young entrepreneurs).
       * Member States are committed to maintain the waterway network and infrastructure. Among the TEN Priority Projects, the Seine-Scheldt connection (Nr. 30) and the Danube project in Austria (Corridor N ° 18) preparatory works for execution have started.
       * In this context, the Commission designated on 27 September 2007 Mrs. Karla Peijs, former Dutch Transport Minister, as European coordinator. Her mandate is to facilitate the delivery of the TEN-T priority projects for inland waterways.

What is next?

For the next phase, the NAIADES Programme foresees actions in the fields of project funding, human resources, reducing the administrative and regulatory burden and infrastructure improvements.

       * Depending on the outcome of an ongoing impact assessment, the legal basis for an 'IWT Innovation Fund' will be worked out. This could be complemented by the publication of a Funding Handbook and dedicated State aid guidelines.
       * As for human resources, specific working time arrangements and EU-wide professional qualification requirements might be agreed through social dialogue. In parallel, legislative proposals on harmonising minimum manning requirements and on uniform boatmasters´ certificate are envisaged.
       * In order to remove administrative and regulatory barriers, the results of the screening study will be evaluated and wherever possible implemented.
       * An indicative infrastructure development plan for improving and maintaining inland waterways and ports shall be set up, in close cooperation with the Member States. At the same time, the deployment of the River Information Services (RIS) will be continued.

Modernisation of the organisational structure

The NAIADES progress report also presents the results of an impact assessment, carried out by the services of the European Commission, on the modernisation of the organisational structure for inland waterway transport in Europe. It concludes that, even though the current framework may have its shortcomings, the available options will not necessarily bring an added value. Under the present circumstances, it seems preferable to base the organisational framework on the existing institutional actors • i.e. the European Commission and the international River Commissions • and to improve, modernise and coordinate working methods and relations wherever possible. A stronger involvement of the European Commission is also needed. The intended membership of the European Community in the Danube Commission, as well as closer coordination with the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, are examples for this commitment.

[1] "NAIADES" • Navigation And Inland Waterway Action and Development in Europe,
COM (2006) 6 final.