European Commission announced new measures to get more freight onto Europe’s rivers and canals

11-9-2013 — /EuropaWire/ — The European Commission today announced new measures1 to get more freight onto Europe’s rivers and canals. Barges are amongst the most climate-friendly and energy efficient forms of transport but currently they only carry about 6% of European cargo each year. The new proposals intend to realise the unused potential of Europe’s 37,000 km of inland waterways. They will enable freight to move more easily and lead to further greening of the sector, as well as encouraging innovation and improving job opportunities.

European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said,

“We already send 500 million tonnes of freight along our rivers and canals each year. That’s the equivalent of 25 million trucks. But it’s not enough. We need to help the waterway transport industry develop over the longer term into a high quality sector. We need to remove the bottlenecks holding it back, and to invest in the skills of its workforce.”

The Commission is proposing actions in the following areas:

Removing bottlenecks

Significant bottlenecks in the form of inadequately dimensioned locks, bridges or fairways and missing links such as the connection between the Seine and the Scheldt river systems are hampering the sector’s full development potential. The Commission is proposing to improve transport of waterborne freight by upgrading locks, bridges and navigation channels. The new Connecting Europe Facility and TEN-T guidelines give priority to new funding opportunities for inland waterways – inland waterways are moreover an important component of six out of nine TEN-T core network corridors.

Greening and innovation

Compared to other land-based modes of transport, inland waterway transport is energy-efficient, safe, almost congestion-free and silent. The Commission will propose measures including new standards for engines to encourage investment in low emission technologies as well as support for research and innovation.

Better connections to other forms of transport

Priority will be given to improving links between inland waterways, road and rail – with particular attention paid to connections at sea and river ports. Based on its ongoing review of River Information Services, the Commission will make proposals to improve cargo handling facilities and reduce paperwork.

Investing in a skilled workforce

The waterways sector relies on a skilled workforce. The new proposals are expected to bring broader recognition of qualifications and careers, to improve labour access, and mobility.


About 37 000 kilometres of inland waterways flow through 20 of the EU Member States, transporting around 500 million tons of cargo every year, in particular in the densely populated and congested areas. The intertwined Rhine, Scheldt and Meuse river systems are connected to the Seine and Danube rivers. However some major bottlenecks prevent the European river systems from taking full part in the European transport area.

After the general slowdown of the EU economy since 2008, overcapacity in certain market segments, the continued fragmentation of market players and the aging fleet have led to a worsening of the economic and sustainability prospects for inland navigation. NAIADES II responds with the work towards a stable long term framework for investments and innovation in quality inland navigation and with measures with short to medium term effects, such as a review of costly technical requirements. Under NAIADES II, financing from EU, national and from the sector needs to be mobilised to support the necessary investments. Access to finance is particularly important in this respect.

For more information:


Follow Vice-President Kallas on Twitter

Contacts :
Helen Kearns (+32 2 298 76 38)
Dale Kidd (+32 2 295 74 61)
1 :NAIADES II. Towards quality inland waterway transport. In Greek mythology, the Naiades were water nymphs.

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