Platform for the implementation of a future inland navigation action programme


Executive summary

This report presents the results of the research conducted for Task 1.5 of PLATINA3, focusing on the existing regulatory framework, policy measures, strategies and various initiatives at EU level that support inland waterway transport (IWT) development and modal shift from road to inland waterways. Specific attention is given to measures targeting decarbonization of the sector in line with the main provisions of the EU legislation. This task builds upon the analysis of the relevant regulatory framework, policy proposals, EU-funded projects and existing good practices at the European level for facilitating modal shift and promoting better use of IWT. The analysis concludes with regulatory support measures, which were not addressed fully or implemented yet, but should be taken into account to further boost modal shift and support energy transition. Based on collected good practice examples, sustainable approaches and lessons learned from other transport sectors, this deliverable comes up with the recommendations for regulatory bodies, policymakers, national administrations and other involved sectors main actors.

The recommendations take into account the findings described in the deliverable both from a regulatory point of view, taking into account and reflecting the conclusions of other deliverables of Work Package (WP) 1 (chapter 5), from the perspective of on-going national and international initiatives (chapter 4) and from the perspective of regulatory framework and market development (chapter 6). The recommendations are complemented by the list of actions to be undertaken at the regulatory and policy levels for further support and facilitation of modal shift towards green IWT. The recommendations and the list of actions target only the “market” aspect of IWT development. Other aspects such as infrastructure (physical and digital), fleet, crewing issues, competences, etc. are considered outside of the scope of this deliverable. The recommendations with regards to regulatory and policy measures focus on modal shift to “green” IWT reflecting the further direction of the regulatory framework development aiming to achieve energy transition together with the modal shift. At the current moment, a large ambition to achieve 30% modal shift by 2030, according to the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy (SSMS), is rather compound, as regards the current rate of IWT (6% in 2019) in Europe. This obviously poses a big challenge on what has to be taken into further consideration to promote IWT and provide it a level-playing-field in comparison with other transport modes, especially from the policy and regulatory side.

Certain regulations are now in a process of revision or adoption (“Fit for 55”, TEN-T Regulation, Combined Transport Directive, RIS Directive), therefore it was only possible to assess the proposals presented for their revision and to evaluate possible future impact on modal shift from these regulations. A possible assessment of the efficiency of these regulations and their impact on modal shift can only be conducted during the next multiannual-financial framework. Currently, only analysis of the potential impact and corresponding conclusions have been provided with regards to these legislative proposals. However, a number of recommendations is provided in the context of the current status of the European IWT market development that can be undertaken and/or better addressed on the regulatory/policy level to provide further support to the sector and to stimulate its better integration into logistic chains. The recommendations address several aspects in relation to the IWT status quo, its potential for further development and the role it plays in reaching the objectives of the European Green Deal.

Recommendations regulatory perspective

Recommendations addressing the regulatory perspective focus on various aspects of IWT development and the main issues in relation to:

  • lack of funding and financing to support IWT development, especially for large investments that cannot be carried by the sector alone;
  • lack of legislative harmonization and standardization (for many different topics, including, in particular, energy transition, logistics (multimodality, RIS services) and the establishment of new markets);
  • lack of alignment of national and regional transport strategies and investment policies with global EU strategies and targets, resulting in differences in support provided to IWT Europe wide;
  • difference in stakeholder’s interests in IWT and slow modal shift undertakings due to the aforementioned unalignment and lack of incentives provided on the regulatory level;
  • low number of pilot projects testing the impact and economic viability of IWT, technological and logistic innovations, gaining knowledge of new technologies, addressing further development of the sector;
  • reduced negative externalities (pollution, noise, congestion, safety, etc.) that are getting more attention nowadays in view of not only regulatory compliance, but also corporate responsibility and increased awareness;
  • absence of a clear mechanism for evaluation of NAIADES action implementation or a monitoring system for the progress achieved.

The list of actions, which provides a summary of policy actions supporting the development of IWT and facilitating modal shift, is given in Table 1 (chapter 6). It is worth mentioning that a number of these actions (e.g., revision of certain legislation) are already ongoing, but because they have particular importance for the sector, they were included in this table and prioritized.

While a full list of recommendations, supplemented by Table 1 is given in the last chapter of this deliverable, some of the key recommendations addressing the regulatory perspective are listed below.

1. Regulations addressing transport emissions performance

IWT has always been positioned as a mode of transport that is “cleaner” and “greener” in comparison with other modes in terms of calculations of grams of CO2 emissions per ton-km, keeping a positive environmental record that can contribute to the European Green Deal objectives if the modal shift is achieved. However, today, taking into account rapid implementation of innovations in road transport sector, IWT is demonstrating much slower uptake of innovations due to higher investment costs for shipowners. Considering this, one of the major targets of the sector today is to increase the number of pilot projects supported by experimental research, testing and certification processes for inland vessels. In this regard, dedicated support for the sector in terms of funding and financing is one of the most relevant issues. Innovations (new markets) are exploited when the necessary funds are available. Financial security and de-risking investment of pioneers shippers and logistic service providers undertaking a modal shift, particularly in new cargo segments, is an important issue that must be addressed from a regulatory and innovation funding perspective. Pilot projects to overcome initial budgetary constraints in multimodal start-ups are needed for better exploration of new market opportunities.

In addition, to provide a level-playing-field for IWT when addressing it in various legislative proposals and policy measures while comparing it with different modes of transport, a number of factors other than CO2 emissions, shall be considered. Contribution to decongestion of overcrowded road networks in densely populated regions, capacity utilization of available space, reduction of externalities such as noise, pollution and the number of accidents and traffic casualties, etc. shall not be overlooked in the evaluation of IWT performance. There is certainly no full internalization of external costs yet, resulting in a lack of incentives for using inland waterway vessels instead of trucks to perform the main haul of the transport. Currently, CO2 emissions performance is taken into account as an environmental performance indicator of IWT. The criteria given above should be better addressed in future investment and subsidy mechanisms and taxation policies. Regulatory measures and their evolution over time must take into account these differences in order to maintain the economic balance for operators to bear the additional investment and operating costs that they will incur over the next decades.

2. Combined Transport Directive revision

The revision of the Combined Transport Directive (CTD) is an important step from the perspective of the regulatory framework towards modal shift, which has to take into account better support for IWT. The existing CTD is focusing on the road-rail leg and not on the road-IWT leg, which creates a lack of level-playing-field conditions for IWT with regards to multimodality. The revision has to ensure that all transport modes are treated equally, with a priority given to environmentally friendly and sustainable ones. Digitalization is vital to improving supply chain management and logistic operations on multimodal transportation and shall also be reflected in the revised CTD. Taking into account that CTD is the only EU legislative act promoting multimodal freight transport, actions and support are needed to ensure a competitive environment for barges in large seaports in comparison with rail and road transport. The revision shall be aligned with the main targets of the EGD, SSMS and NAIADES III as regards the modal shift.

3. RIS Directive revision

The revision of River Information Services Directive (Directive 2005/44/EC) is an important instrument to promote IWT as an innovative and competitive transport mode. Cooperation on RIS development between Member States at EU level is successful, but now a new challenge of services integration in the logistic chain has to be properly addressed to better integrate IWT thanks to reinforced activities in RIS and Intelligent Transport Systems. The RIS Directive and the Intelligent Transport Systems Directive (Directive 2010/40/EU) are under revision. While targeting advanced applications of innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management, ITS provides better visibility, informed and safer, more coordinated, and ‘smarter’ use of transport networks. So does RIS for IWT. However, today, separate regulations for all modalities create a high level of fragmentation in terms of the development of multimodal transport. Road, rail, and IWT establish different regulatory frameworks requiring the submission of a large number of different documents with specific cargo details. This limits the possibilities of switching to another modality, affecting, in particular, the utilization of IWT. Therefore, now is an appropriate moment for strong cooperation to continue to transfer RIS and mobility services to a new level by increasing the market share of IWT in comparison with other modes of transport.

4. Need for better alignment of national and regional transport strategies and investment policies with global EU strategies and targets

Modal split varies significantly from one country to another, reflecting the difference in national transport strategies as well as economic and geographical factors. At the same time, different approaches are taken in Member States national programs in terms of cross-border cooperation, making IWT projects implementation even more complex in terms of investments and funding. It is important that main programs and policy documents, together with their action plans, are similarly reflected on the national level to eliminate fragmentation of actions and facilitate coordinated integration across the transport corridor. Establishment of a clear mechanism for evaluation of NAIADES-actions implementation and a monitoring system of the progress achieved would be helpful for further implementation of the NAIADES program.

5. Non-EU Member States involvement

A better involvement of non-EU countries contributing to the development of an interconnected IWT network, addressing common European priorities and goals through joint participation in EU projects and funding programs as well as through reflection in their national transport strategies goals of the EGD, SSMS, and NAIADES III should be achieved.

Recommendations market perspective

The market perspective recommendations address the following:

  • The development of new markets with respect to the regulatory and political developments, among others, addressing energy transition and the development of new technologies;
  • The establishment of separate markets for separate cargo categories under particular conditions to be considered as a potential measure for market structurization;
  • Support of experimental undertakings through the development of public policies and dedicated measures on the state level, as well as providing funding to secure experimental undertakings when developing new multimodal chains compared to traditional transport modes;
  • Cooperation between IWT and other transport modes to ensure the better development of multimodal transportation at the European level;
  • New standards for alternative energy types and future role of inland ports in the light of energy transition and establishment of the new markets;
  • Further improvement of information flows and data exchange in IWT and further implementationof synchromodality concepts;
  • Building awareness of IWT’s potential through better involvement of key players in the market and targeted cooperation.

1. Separate market segments

The establishment of separate markets for separate cargo categories and under particular conditions (long distances and large volumes—IWT; short distances and low volumes—road, as a rough indication) can be considered a potential measure for market structurization. IWT is not always able to compete with other transport modes (road, rail) on an equal footing. This leads to IWT losing its positions due to its lack of predictability and flexibility. This becomes especially sensitive in the transportation of small consignments, perishables, containers, and other goods requiring just-in-time operations. The establishment of a clearer framework condition for separate market segments, the opportunities, needs and requirements for those segments and the value certain innovations can bring to address them. Synchromodality, automation brining more flexibility to the operations and fleet management and further integration of IWT solutions into the supply chains transport management platforms, shall help to align all the transport modes (focused on their particular segments) and to work towards future collaboration and coexistence rather than strong competition, where IWT was consequently losing its market share.

The creation of new markets shall take this dimension further into development by gradually implementing segregation between different transport modes or otherwise ensuring their rational combination (multimodality).

Similar principles can be considered from the perspective of maritime ports to ensure a level-playing-field for all transport modes and to ensure multimodal services are present with a proportionate share.

2. Support of experimental undertakings

The creation of business cases to stimulate modal shift from road to IWT is the successful practice shown, for instance, through the activities of viadonau, the Voies navigables de France (VNF) and De Vlaamse Waterveg (creation of stakeholders` networks, assisting, advising, conducting consultations with supply chain actors to come up with win-win solutions) and reflected in this deliverable. An importance of application of a case-by-case approach targeting not only modal shift and reduction of environmental impact, but also rational and efficient utilization of existing (underutilized) capacities of other transport modes, such as IWT, is addressed. An important cornerstone in this regard is a question of responsibility in the case of an unsuccessful undertaking of modal shift and compensation of losses, overcoming financial and economic barriers. Having no warranties or concrete vision on how, in case of an unsuccessful undertaking, a company can get certain reimbursement or a back-up, makes it acting reluctantly towards new approaches and follow a traditional approach in its logistic activities. Moreover, multimodal transport is always more expensive, making it more challenging to overcome the price difference, meaning that the creation of financial incentives for new trials can be a big help to the sector.

3. Cooperation with other transport modes

Cooperation between IWT and other transport modes shall address such aspects of IWT functioning as the possibility of a speedy switch from one mode to another in case of an inability of IWT to ensure sufficient transportation due to reasons that don’t depend on the sector`s performance itself. Such reasons often relate to external factors such as low water levels, long waiting times at maritime ports and at locks, accidents, congestion, or any other disruptions. In this regard, cooperation, networking, and the exchange of information on most topical issues can help to tackle relevant challenges collectively. Barge owners, truck companies, and railways shall be brought together in cooperation for synchromodal solutions.

4. Future role of inland ports

A better addressed role of inland ports on the way towards energy transition and from the perspective of new market opportunities shall also be considered. Creation of industry hubs and clusters around inland ports—integration of the urban nodes of the TEN-T network, which will exclude long pre- and end-haulage by road or rail to inland ports. In this regard, inland ports shall be seen as future hubs for synergies between transport, alternative energy, industry, and the digital sectors, which shall lead to the development of essential relationships between grid companies, local energy companies, and ports.

Development of inland port strategies as centres of “green” energies and industrial hubs for circular economy shall address the following:

  1. Reconsideration of the future role of inland ports to achieve economies of scale and offer the best transport solution for a competitive green industry position in the process of energy transition;
  2. Building up synergetic business models with different industries for the shipments, storing, supplying clean energy and refuelling infrastructure (collaboration between energy & transport);
  3. Reshaping the inland navigation agenda, including inland ports, to seize cooperation opportunities as hubs for “green” energy production, handling, storage, transportation, etc.

5. Better involvement of key market players

Better involvement of the key market players in order to increase the number of business cases for modal shift. To materialize modal shift in Europe, it is important to look at the top sector stakeholders (cargo owners, barge owners, and logistic service providers) and stimulate the capacity. The following main pathways shall be taken into account: creation of awareness of the potential of IWT (as not all cargo owners are familiar with sustainable options), monetarization of energy-efficiency and assessment of the possibilities to come up with a new plan for modal shift at the European level (i.e., new ideas, new products and new services to realize modal shift).

To move from policies and regulations towards real business cases, an IWT business development strategy with a strong promotion of the modal shift on the industry level as well as on the level of the individual company is needed. A Master Plan with differentiation on the national level by each MS, resulting in targeted projects and providing enough resources for promoting agencies and waterway administrations, has to be put into practice in the upcoming years. A Master Plan shall consider existing National Transport Strategies, national support measures for the IWT development, other programs of the EU MS and certain successful experiences as well as lessons learned with regards to the modal shift. This can help to avoid duplication of measures, which were already undertaken, as well as to evaluate real potential of particular undertakings and the results achieved.

6. Implementation of synchromodality concepts

Shortcomings on the freight transport markets, e.g., the lack of reliability and punctuality of IWT services is a source of dissatisfaction among customers causing potential customers to consider IWT as less able of meeting their logistical needs in a synchromodal environment. This means that the IWT sector must prepare for a rapid and substantial evolution. It will have to think differently about its value propositions, continuously developing and improving products and services that generate customer responses, uncover missed customer segments, look, check and adopt services developed in other sectors that can be a source of inspiration of good practices.

The cooperation with actors from other modes will be key in order to apply innovations form other sectors and to develop high quality and seamless mobility solutions. This requires liaising with relevant stakeholders, most definitely including the logistics industry.

7. Increased awareness

Moreover, environmental performance and modal shift to IWT can be achieved only through joint efforts. As indicated in “Fit for 55”: “Reaching climate neutrality will require a shared sense of purpose, collective efforts and a recognition of different starting points and challenges. Many citizens, especially younger people, are ready to change their consumption and mobility patterns when empowered by relevant information in order to limit their carbon footprint and to live in a greener, healthier environment”. This is why cargo-owners, large producers, industry representatives and logistic service providers should be addressed and better informed about the real impact of logistics concerning GHG footprint across the multi-modal supply chain. In this way, from the regulatory perspective, a wide approach to reach potential users is needed to implement measures for better visibility and differentiation of “clean”, “greener” and environmentally friendly transport operations.  

Executive summary

Modal shift in freight transport from road to Inland Waterways (IWWs) is a strategic objective prioritised by both the European Union (EU) and many of its Member States. Notwithstanding, IWWs remain underutilised in most Member States. Even in the small number of countries in which inland waterway transport (IWT) has a high market share and is well established, inland waterway freight transport volumes decreased in the period 2010-2020. From the macro perspective, the IWT sector as a whole has difficulties to maintain its modal share and thus support the EU’s ambitions to shift freight to more sustainable modes of transport. Such challenges are partly due to the intense competition that the inland waterway transport (IWT) faces from road and rail transport modes but are also related to reducing transport demand from traditional industries in Europe resulting in a decline of bulk cargo transports.
Notwithstanding, there is a clear potential to increase the use of IWWs to their full potential and facilitate modal shift to IWT, although specific opportunities vary depending on the region and local context. This will require inter alia putting in place the right framework conditions. These could enable the sustainable use of IWT, as well as a better understanding and anticipation to the decision-making process behind the modal choice. Furthermore, the IWT sector needs to anticipate to the requirements of shippers and to provide one-stop-shop solutions for intermodal and multimodal chains. This means that also pre- and end haulage by road, transhipment and storage in ports need to be taken into the scope of the service offered by the logistic service supplier. The transport by barge therefore needs to be integrated in a seamless way and could also serve as ‘floating storage’.
Having a better understanding of the rationale and principles of modal shift, the decision-making process behind a modal choice, the barriers and facilitators to modal shift is crucial. Equally important is stakeholder engagement and collaboration among key actors in the transport and logistics chain. Collaborations between parties in the chain may develop, synchromodal solutions. This means the choice of mode (rail, shortsea, road haulage or inland navigation) being dynamic and depending on the actual lead time and transport route possibilities. Synchromodal solutions take into account dynamics of capacity supply, utilisation, terminal waiting times, congestion on roads, costs etc.
In the context of modal shift from road transport, the shift could be towards either intermodal or multimodal transport, depending on the specific circumstances and logistics of the transport chain. The term “intermodal” is often used more commonly in the context freight transport using containers as load unit, particularly for longer distance and more complex transport chains. The term “multimodal” is often used in the context of freight transport, particularly for local and regional transport systems that use multiple modes of transport and where bulk transport is concerned or different types of load units are used for each mode in the chain.
Although the transport industry is nowadays much more complex than in previous centuries due to advances in technology, globalisation and greater volume of goods being transported across longer distances, as well as changes in consumer behaviour, the mechanism underlying modal shift essentially remains the same: when a transport mode becomes more advantageous than another (in terms of costs, convenience, quality, speed or reliability) over the same route or in the same market, a modal shift is likely to occur. However, the factors that influence modal choice can be complex and may vary depending on the specific context, such as the type of goods being transported, the distance of the route, and the availability of infrastructure and services. As such, it is important to consider these factors when promoting sustainable transport choices and encouraging modal shift towards more sustainable modes of transport. Notwithstanding, modal choice is a very complex decision process, determined by a wide range of factors coming from different disciplines, such as economy, sociology, geography and psychology. It is often the result of a complex process that can take place consciously or unconsciously and which includes both objective and subjective determinants.
Focus and purpose of the report
Against this background, the report aims at providing a foundation of knowledge on modal shift (MS) in freight transport and framework conditions enabling the potential for modal shift from road to IWWs. The major objective of the work carried out under Task 1.4 is to identify facilitators and barriers — economic and financial — preventing the potential for freight modal shift to IWT. To this end, it investigates from a micro-perspective approach key factors underpinning modal choice and modal shift with the aim of identifying support actions and measures which could assist the IWT sector in its quest for achieving a higher share of modal shift at EU level. To this end, the decision-making process and the key actors and factors underpinning the freight modal shift to IWW is analysed. Next to best practices, support actions and measures are outlined, coupled with a set of recommendations which could assist the IWT sector to achieving a higher share of modal shift at EU level.
The report briefly presents the micro approach conceptual framework (chapter 2)  — a theoretical framework used to understand the decision-making processes of individual actors in the transport sector, such as shippers and carriers. The framework is based on the idea that transport decisions are made at the individual level and that these decisions are influenced by a range of factors, including the characteristics of the shipment, the transport mode, and the market environment.
Mode choice plays a critical role in the success of modal shift from road to inland waterway. To encourage mode shift to inland waterway transport, stakeholders in the transport industry can implement a range of measures, including improving the infrastructure for inland waterway transport, providing financial incentives for shippers and carriers, and promoting the environmental benefits of inland waterway transport. By addressing the key factors that influence mode choice, stakeholders can create an environment that encourages modal shift and contributes to the overall success of the initiative. Accordingly, modal choice is discussed in chapter 3. When making mode choice decisions, shippers consider a wide range of factors, including cost, speed, reliability, accessibility, and environmental sustainability. To encourage mode shift to inland waterway transport, stakeholders in the transport industry can implement a range of measures, including improving the infrastructure for inland waterway transport, providing financial incentives for shippers and carriers, and promoting the environmental benefits of inland waterway transport. By addressing the key factors that influence mode choice, stakeholders can create an environment that encourages modal shift and contributes to the overall success of the initiative.
Modal shift concept and phases distinguished: 1. inertia, 2. modal shift, and 3. maturity. These are described in chapter 4 and prepares the ground for further analysing the factors influencing  the modal shift at micro and macro-level. These phases can vary depending on the specific market context. By understanding the different phases of modal shift, stakeholders can develop strategies that take into account the unique challenges and opportunities of their specific context. Economic and financial barriers to modal shift are defined and examples are provided in chapter 6. Furthermore, the impact of such barriers is discussed in relation to the three phases of modal shift.
Best practices and possible solutions for overcoming the economic and financial barrier are discussed in chapter 7. In this context an analysis of economic and financial barriers that are most salient in the inertia phase, the modal shift phase, in the maturity phase and related solutions that can be used to overcome these barriers, such as public education campaigns, targeted incentives for early adopters, and regulatory reforms are outlined.
Key actors and their role in the modal shift decision making process and in setting the right framework condition for modal shift are presented in chapter 8.  The ninth chapter specifically presents a deep-dive into main findings of the Multimodaal Vlaanderen (MMV) study case focusing on modal shift cases in Flanders, Belgium. In this programme, from end of 2017 till mid 2021 about 1095 companies were contacted of which 333 agreed to start up a modal shift business case. The success rate of these business cases was however disappointing: only 52 were successful in achieving modal shift to rail and IWT. The important outcome is that the vast majority of the successful cases/companies turned to IWT. They provided data for 39 cases, representing 12% of the business cases they handled in this period. By request MMV made a selection of representative cases (both successful and unsuccessful) which created the opportunity to look at the financial/economic barriers which come into play and which could positively or negatively influence modal shift. Accordingly, some of the main barriers to modal shift were identified as follows: unfavorable contractual arrangements, principles of supply chain management that work against modal shift, complexity of a multimodal chain, malfunctioning of maritime supply chains, which ultimately lead to an unfavorable total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to road transport.
The final chapter of this report discusses the key findings and outlines a set of possible support actions and measures to eliminate economic and financial barriers to modal shift in IWT. Accordingly, public policies and support measures by policy makers at national and regional level are outlined can be developed along the three phases of modal shift to encourage and facilitate the shift towards IWT. Against this background, the setting up of a promotion centre for modal shift to inland waterway providing services and carrying out activities targeted for all phases can be a useful strategy to encourage and facilitate greater use of inland waterway transportation.

Executive summary

Regulations and standards belong to the group of obvious policy instruments to support the transition to zero emissions for the IWT fleet. In fact, the legal certainty associated with regulations and standards significantly influences the ability to invest in new technologies (energy carriers / converters). Appropriate regulations and standards allow to:

  • reduce risks for ship owners willing to invest (and help companies plan their investments),
  • reduce operating costs (initial investment, running costs and insurance costs), 
  • facilitate the acceptance of new technologies by mitigating safety and environmental risks, and
  • stimulate market structuring and enable a wider adoption of technologies and clean forms of energy (it reinforces market potential for technology suppliers and may result in economies of scale).

More generally, regulations and standards influence the costs and duration of the transition process to zero emissions for the IWT fleet. In synergy with financial support, a consistent and effective regulatory framework is needed to level out the operational advantages of conventional fossil fuels and related technologies over renewable fuels and thereby improve the business case for cleaner solutions for the fleet.

The purpose of this report is to identify the regulations and standards related to vessels and technologies (energy carriers / converters) which are missing nowadays to effectively support the transition towards a zero-emission IWT fleet in Europe.

The scope of this report is limited to fleet-related regulations and standards: vessel design, including energy converters, energy used, and vessel operations including bunkering, charging and swapping. It covers regulations and standards enacted by the EU, but also those of the River Commissions (such as CCNR or DC) and UNECE which co-exist alongside EU law. In terms of technologies considered (energy carriers / converters), this report takes into account the study published by the CCNR on the energy transition towards a zero-emission inland navigation sector as well as the roadmap for reducing inland navigation emissions adopted in December 2021.

In terms of methodology, a desk study of existing regulations and standards was initially conducted to clarify the general impact on the IWT fleet, the specific gaps for new energy sources as well as gaps in terms of missing regulations for effective emission reduction policies. Then, interviews and discussions (with policy makers, classification societies, technology and energy suppliers, shipyards, IWT sector) allowed to improve the analysis further and prepare recommendations. In particular, the findings of this report were also examined during the third (10-11 February 2022) and sixth (23-24 March 2023) PLATINA3 stage events to ensure acceptance and support by the main impacted stakeholders. This report was elaborated with guidance from the PLATINA3 Advisory Board, as well as representatives of the European Commission’s DG MOVE.

This report includes 42 recommendations to effectively support the transition towards zero emissions for the fleet. In this respect, the recommendations are summarised in table format on the following pages. They include:

  • 21 recommendations for the vessel regulations,
  • 11 recommendations for fuel regulations and
  • 10 recommendations for the operational regulations.
no V=vessel, F=fuel, P=operation/policeWhoWhatWhenPriority
V1EC, CCNR, DC, Moselle Commission, Sava Commission, National administrationsfacilitate the financing and commissioning of pilot vessels using alternative technologies, subject to the sharing of the experience collected for the regulatory workContinuousI
V2CESNI, EC, CCNRinvestigate the opportunity to introduce efficiency and greenhouse gas emission limits, possibly both for existing vessels and newly built vessels, in line with emission reduction target2023-2025I
V3CESNI and EUROMOTupdate regularly their FAQ document on NRMM and ES-TRINContinuousI
V4ECreview opportunity to further reduce exhaust emission limits for inland navigation vessels, taking account of existing related Union and international standards and propose any necessary legal changes2025II
V5EC, CCNR, CESNIconsider introducing a phasing out of existing engines in ES-TRIN to achieve minimum air pollutant emission standards2030II
V6,8EC, engine manufacturers classification societiesfacilitate the use of marinized engines (clarify the accepted inducement strategies and possible use on board vessels transporting dangerous goods)ContinuousII
V7ECreview the extent to which the engine emissions measured during type-approval tests using corresponding test cycles reflect engine emissions in real operating conditions and propose any necessary changes.2025II
V9ECevaluate the need to lower the factor A of emission limits for gas engine in NRMM to increase the climate performance of LNG propulsion systems2025II
V10CESNIevaluate the requirements for lithium-ion batteries after several years2024-2025II
V11CESNI/CCNRdevelop provisions to allow the swappable battery containers for the considering the risks involved2023I
V12CESNImonitor the development in the use of batteries for propulsion and anticipate the spreading of type of batteries other than LIB.ContinuousII
V13CESNIcollect experience regarding the approval of the hydrogen tanks and the relevant standards2023I
V14CESNIfinalise the requirements for the compressed and liquefied storage of hydrogen2023-2025I
V15EUROMOT/CESNIdevelop guidelines for the implementation of Articles 34 and 35 of NRMM for engines using hydrogen as fuel (pending a revision of NRMM).2023I
V16CESNIstart the development of safety requirements for hydrogen in internal combustion engine2024II
confirm that hydrogen is accepted for propulsion of vessels carrying dangerous goods2024-2025II
V18CESNImonitor the development in the hydrogen carriers2025II
V19CESNIfinalise the requirements for the storage of methanol and its use in internal combustion engines (ES-TRIN 2025)2023I
V20EUROMOT/CESNIdevelop guidelines for the implementation of Articles 34 and 35 of NRMM for engines using methanol as fuel (pending a revision of NRMM).2023I
confirm that methanol is accepted for propulsion of vessels carrying dangerous goods2024-2025II
F1Member States, CCNR, DC, Moselle Commission, Sava Commission, ECcoordinate on implementation of REDII revision and FQD as regards obligations for energy suppliers to inland vessels (preferably this coordination takes place at River Commissions level in relation with IWT fleet modernisation issues or even on EU level).2023-2024I
F2ECstart policy research/development and impact assessment study for a proposal of “FuelEU IWT” based on the FuelEU Maritime proposal in Fit for 55, aligned with EU Taxonomy technical screening criteria and methodology2024-2025I
F3ECstart policy research/development and impact assessment study for a proposal about IWT to be included in ETS (based the approach for road transport in ETS)2024-2025I
F4, F5Member States / EClimit the share of EN590 and fossil LNG in fuel supply, e.g. by means of limits on carbon intensity levels and/or ETS on EU level.2030I
F6, F9, F10, F11Member States / ECpromote the share of fuels (HVO or biofuels/e-fuels, hydrogen and methanol) as well as electricity from renewal sources in fuel supply, e.g. by means of limits on carbon intensity levels and/or ETS on EU level2030I
F7CENinvestigate need for more strict fuel quality standards for FAME and their blends as well as quality checks in the supply chains of these fuels and enforcement.2025II
F8EBU / ESO / national shipowner associations / IVRlaunch awareness campaigns on the usage of biodiesel to be aware of possible technical risks and mitigation measures to prevent problems (e.g. as regards filter blockage, water separation)2024I
P1CCNR, DC, Moselle Commission, UNECEexamine the need of operational requirements to ensure safety in case of thermal runaway of batteries2023I
P2National authoritiesfacilitate the exchange of good practices between the fire brigades involved in fires with LIB, especially on-board inland vessels2023-2024I
P3CEN, CENELECdevelop standards for shore-side battery recharging and battery swapping, taking into account the experience gained in inland navigation and the difference with the maritime sector.2026I
P4CCNR, DC, Moselle Commission, UNECEexamine the need of operational requirements to ensure safety of hydrogen2023-2024I
P5CEN, CENELECdevelop standards for swapping of racks/containers of compressed hydrogen, taking into account the experience gained in inland navigation and the existing industrial standards2026I
P6CEN, CENELECdevelop standards for bunkering of liquefied hydrogen2028II
P7, P10National authoritiescollect and share the experience gained with the first pilot vessels to feed in the regulatory workContinuousI
P8CCNR, DC, Moselle Commission, UNECEexamine the need of operational requirements to ensure safety of methanol2023I
P9CEN, CENELECdevelop standards for bunkering of methanol, taking into account the experience gained in inland navigation and the existing industrial standards2024I

Executive summary

The PLATINA3 project
The Horizon 2020 PLATINA3 project provides a platform for the implementation of the NAIADES III Action Plan. PLATINA3 is structured around four fields (Market, Fleet, Jobs & Skills, Infrastructure) of which Work Package (WP) 2 deals with various aspects of the inland navigation fleet, such as 1) zero-emission strategy; 2) climate-resilient vessels; 3) automated vessels; 4) fleet data; and 5) funding the energy transition for the fleet; 6) energy label index for vessels; 7) regulations for zero-emission vessels.  
This report presents the conclusions from PLATINA3’s Task 2.3 which aims to facilitate the development of regulatory frameworks at European level for onboard systems allowing automation of inland navigation vessels. This deliverable is based on desk research building upon existing studies and analyses and is further substantiated by expert interviews. The outcomes of the 5th PLATINA3 Stage Event (19-20 October 2022), where experts made presentations on this topic, a draft deliverable was showcased, and an interactive workshop was held, are also integrated into this report.
Scope of the report, core definitions, and methodology
The scope of this report is limited to systems allowing automation as well as remote-control of navigational tasks and the corresponding European regulatory frameworks for vessels. Issues related to professional training and qualifications, police requirements, economic and market-related implications, infrastructure, liability and insurance, dangerous goods, and fuel, emissions, and sustainability aspects, are outside the scope of this report.
The core definitions used in this report are based upon the CCNR’s levels of automation, the first international definitions of automation tailor-made for the IWT sector. The levels of automation range from steering assistance and partial automation (levels 1-2) to progressive delegation of tasks without intervention of the boatmaster (levels 3-4). Fully autonomous vessels correspond to level 5 (independent command with no human involvement), the most advanced stage of automation.
The report distinguishes whether the vessel is remotely controlled or not, and the degree to which it is automated, i.e. which tasks are completely delegated to the computer, which remain in the human domain, and which are handled by both. Although automation and remote-control are not completely independent from each other, they are functionally different concepts.
This report employed a step-by-step approach based upon an incremental and primarily inductive research design. An analysis of European pilot projects was carried out to determine the TRL and evaluate the RD&I needs of the various systems allowing automation of inland navigation vessels. The report then identified the main functions allowing automation of navigation-related tasks as well as their associated safety concerns. Considering these functions, a gap analysis of relevant European legislation was carried out to identify the possible regulatory barriers/gaps and thereby propose new requirements via a technologically neutral approach. Ultimately, the outcome of this analysis was translated into recommendations accompanied by a Roadmap.
Current state of play and policy context
On 17 October 2018, the inland navigation Ministers of the five CCNR Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland) adopted the Mannheim Declaration and called, inter alia, for the “development of digitalisation, automation and other modern technologies in order to contribute to the competitiveness, safety and sustainable development of inland navigation”. In 2022, the CCNR published a vision to support the harmonised development of automated navigation via a holistic and technologically neutral approach.
In response to the Paris Agreement, the European Commission adopted the European Green Deal (EGD) in December 2019, which aims to shift a substantial portion of the freight transported by road (currently accounting for circa 76% of EU inland freight) to inland navigation (circa 6%) and rail (circa 18%). As transport accounts for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and is growing, achieving climate neutrality implies that a 90% reduction in transport emissions is required by 2050. All transport modes must contribute to make climate-neutral, resilient, and intelligent synchro-modal automated transport by 2050 a reality. Through this, the EU will unleash the full potential of data, integrate electronic ticketing facilities for seamless multimodal transport, and deploy automated mobility.
As the transport arm of the EGD, the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy (SSMS) lays the foundation for how the EU transport system can achieve its green and digital transformation ambitions and become more resilient to future crises. It underlines the need to increase the use of more sustainable transport modes and indicates that IWT and short-sea shipping should each increase by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050. The SSMS envisions that automated mobility will be deployed at large scale by 2030 to increase the efficiency and reliability of transport, logistics and supply chains. Automation is also identified as a driver of smart mobility in achieving seamless, safe, and efficient connectivity.
In June 2021, the EC launched the NAIADES-III initiative, which sets a 35-point “Inland Navigation Action Plan 2021-2027” aligned with the Multi-Annual Financial Framework to meet the objectives of the EGD and SSMS.Its two core objectives are to shift more cargo to Europe’s rivers and canals and facilitate the transition to zero-emission barges by 2050 to boost the role of IWT in environmentally sustainable mobility and logistics systems. One of the eight NAIADES-III policy flagships aims to support the development, demonstration, and deployment of holistic, smart, and automated shipping concepts with a focus on the most promising applications in terms of feasibility and commercialisation, as well as in terms of environmental benefits.
Analysis of European pilot and research projects
The analysis of pilot projects revealed that conducting pilot tests allows regulators and innovators alike to gather critical knowledge, data, and real-life experience to adapt the relevant regulations to achieve automation. Most of the systems needed for automated vessels are already available but some technologies must be further developed and tested before becoming fully operational. Furthermore, questions related to the interoperability between software and onboard systems remain unanswered, both onboard the automated vessel (human-machine interface) and in relation with other vessels (communications, signalling, intent sharing) in a mixed navigation environment.
There is a need for both overall pilot projects on long stretches or the entirety of a given waterway to test the operational feasibility of automated navigation, as well as very localised projects to test specific operations, such as entering locks, passing infrastructure and chokepoints, or making challenging turns. To avoid fragmentation, there is a need to develop industry-wide standards or guidelines. The IWT transport sector would benefit from standardization activities at European level for the scaling-up of automation. Where possible, there would be a clear added value to have similar standards across the waterborne sector.
Systems and functions allowing automation of inland navigation vessels
Six main functions allowing the automation of inland navigation vessels were identified. These are situational awareness, collision avoidance, communications, navigation control, safety, and fall-back capability. Each of these main functions is further broken down into sub-functions, including several ‘reliability guarantees’. Each sub-function is underpinned by several system families in varying combinations, such as sensors (RADAR, LIDAR, cameras), positioning systems (GNSS, inland ECDIS), communication systems (4/5G internet, AIS, VHF), computer components (IMU/GPU, centralized PLC system, AI/machine learning), and more. For each subfunction, minimal requirements are identified, both in terms of technical regulations, safety prescriptions, systems’ interactions, and human involvement. Some proposed solutions to address common safety concerns are provided to guide the work of regulators.
In terms of Technological Readiness Levels (TRL) and outstanding RD&I needs, it appears that most of the systems needed for low level automated navigation (levels 1-2) are already in a relatively high state of market readiness. This includes the core systems allowing automation (RADAR, LIDAR, cameras, GNSS, communications, global internet, track pilots etc.), which are considered to have reached a high TRL level. On the other hand, techniques and systems for high automation and autonomy (levels 3-5) have comparatively low TRL levels. Indeed, the most advanced systems (collision avoidance, AI, neural networks, sensor fusion and integration, etc.) still need additional technical improvements to move from TRL 5-6 to TRL 9. Furthermore, on some small sections of the Rhine and on most of the Danube, high speed internet connectivity (4G/5G) remains unavailable, which is a virtual precondition for operating a significant share of automated vessels, especially remote-controlled vessels. Finally, encryption, data integrity, and cybersecurity systems and protocols still need additional testing and improvements to become fully mature. This remains critical for the safe deployment of remote-controlled vessels and other higher automation applications.
Some systems allowing high levels of automation are currently in use, although there is always a human as a supervisor and backup – either onboard or in an RCC. More testing locations for automation levels 3 and above are needed to gather as much data as possible. This data is necessary for developers to improve the performance of their systems and for regulators to make informed decisions.
Results of the regulatory gap analysis and recommendations
The identified regulatory obstacles to the uptake of automated inland navigation vessels in ES-TRIN fall into two main categories. The first category regards provisions that constitute regulatory barriers and therefore do not allow or contradict the aims of automation. These typically refer, explicitly or implicitly, to the presence of a boatmaster and/or crew members onboard, either to perform an action or to interact with equipment designed for manned operations (e.g. doors to be passed, signs to be read, etc.). These provisions should, broadly speaking, be amended to account for the specificities of automated inland navigation vessels.  The second category regards the absence of regulations pertaining to specific functions identified as necessary for the safe automation of inland navigation vessels – i.e. regulatory gaps. This absence could generate a legal vacuum leading to a proliferation of patchwork solutions and possible low safety standards. At the very least, these functions should be incorporated into the regulatory framework.
Regulators (EU, CCNR, CESNI), standardisation bodies (CEN, ETSI) and classification societies should work together to fund, support, and learn from pilot projects to gather the necessary data and experience to better regulate the IWT policy area to allow the automation of inland navigation vessels. Regulatory work should be complemented by targeted interventions to bridge the financial gap and the respond to the outstanding RD&I needs for automation-enabling systems to reach technological maturity in the short to medium term.

Executive summary

Greater use of multimodal transportation can substantially improve the environmental performance of freight transportation. Despite big efforts taken by policy-makers to alter the freight modal split, most companies still rely heavily on road transportation, while modal shifts to rail and inland waterways are still modest.

The European transport and logistics sector is one of the key business sectors in Europe, performing billions of operations by millions of companies and people every day. Assuring the integration of these operations across national borders is a cornerstone of EU policy and a basis for the competitiveness of the economy. The insufficiency and partial absence of common processes, a common language and common standards for interoperability are key obstacles to achieving integration. Moreover, any supporting technology to be applied should be highly reliable, accessible, affordable and as generic as possible. Interactions between stakeholders must be easily established at a cost affordable to all. Supply chains need to be more efficient by providing state-of-the-art visibility and collaboration capabilities. Above and beyond the proper design of infrastructures and services, the operational control of the execution of transport processes should be optimised through, for example, improved synchronisation.[1]

Synchromodality is defined as an “evolution of inter- and co-modal transport concepts, where stakeholders of the transport chain actively interact within a cooperative network to flexibly plan transport processes and to be able to switch in real-time between transport modes tailored to available resources. The shipper determines in advance only basic requirements of the transport such as costs, duration and sustainability aspects. Thus, transport processes can be optimized and available resources sustainably and fully utilized[2].

According to PIANC, Guidelines and recommendations for river information services (2022), synchromodality provides the most efficient and appropriate transport solution in terms of sustainability, transport costs, duration, and their reliability, in which the configuration of the transport chain is not static during transport, but is flexible. It is thus able to adapt the mode of adequate transport according to the conditions in real time of infrastructure and capacity, through collaboration and the exchange of information in real time of all modes of transport, the terminal facilities and the actors involved in the transport logistics chain

Synchromodality developed and established in the Benelux region in the last decade provides a framework within which shippers can manage their multimodal supply chains more flexibly to further increase the potential for modal shift. Despite its importance, synchromodality is at an early stage both from research and practice perspectives. The existing contributions are sparse and treat only one or a few aspects of the matter.

The transport sector is fundamental to our economies and societies, but it is also responsible for a multitude of negative side effects including air emissions, noise and congestion. This calls for a modal shift toward a more efficient and effective reorganization of the whole transport system. To this end, synchromodality is a logistics concept which strives to increase the share of rail and inland waterway transport. Switching smoothly between these two modes and road transport takes place in near real-time, which is made possible since shippers book their transport service “mode-free”, i.e., without any need of specifying their transport mode in advance. The transport company is thus able to bundle the flows of goods from different customers and optimizes the cargo. Synchromodality requires close cooperation between all stakeholders along the transport chain and allows moving goods in a flexible and resource-efficient way.[3]

The concept of synchromodality is being presented in the present report from a supply chain[4] perspective. When supply chain impacts are considered, there is a high possibility to significantly increase the share of multimodal transportation, without increasing total logistics costs or reducing the service levels. For these purposes, synchromodality can contribute to significantly reduce the environmental impact of freight, allowing costs savings since the best and most efficient transport mode is selected.

Therefore, in a nutshell, synchromodality is the coordination between and within chains at the level of infrastructure, services and transport, such that, given the aggregated demand for transport, the right mode is used at any given time[5]. This coordination aims to provide efficient, reliable, flexible, and sustainable services. It is done  through the coordination and cooperation of stakeholders and the synchronization of operations driven by information and communication technologies (ICT) and intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies.

The main purpose of synchromodality is reducing costs, emissions, and delivery times while maintaining the quality of supply chain service through the smart utilization of available resources and synchronization of transport flows. Implementation of the synchromodality concept and some research projects based on this practice have already shown how different kinds of logistics objectives can be achieved or significantly improved, including avoiding empty capacity, reacting to disruptions as well as reducing transportation by trucks in favour of trains, ships and barges.[6] Thus, synchromodality including the further greening of the IWT sector together with climate-resilient vessels and digitalised vessels, can be a tool to further support modal shift. However, the current deliverable does not focus on the greening initiatives, and it has to be noted that the road and rail transport sector are also engaged to a high extent in greening and digitalisation. Therefore, IWT must also make progress and increase connectivity and transparency to keep pace with the other modes.

The main element of synchromodality is to plan transport processes based on current capacities of the different transport modes in real-time. The shipper gives the logistics service provider the possibility to choose the appropriate combination between available modes of transport. Other parameters such as costs, pollution and time might also be considered when planning on the complete supply chain level.

Thus, a real time switch is possible and sustainable transport processes can be efficiently integrated in the transport chain. A core criterion for a working synchromodal chain is to generate a cooperation network between all stakeholders. To foster the successful implementation of synchromodal transport chains the status quo of synchromodal transport as well as potential key enablers such as the standardised exchange of data and the efficient use of ITS must be defined.

Based on a literature review[7] and various discussions in the research community, several categories of potential key enablers have been determined, such as:

  • network/cooperation/trust – A new way of thinking is required to generate a synchromodal network which is concentrated on trust and the advantages of cooperation instead of competition.
  • sophisticated planning/simulation – Sophisticated dynamic planning and simulation of transport routes and transport patterns are essential to create a functioning synchromodal transport network. Customer preferences, busy routes and available resources of hubs and transport modes have to be evaluated and examined. Forecasts and simulations are essential to learn about repeated connections and to be able to optimize transport performances. Thus, a core freight network has to be identified using demand mapping and forecasting tools. A comprehensive supply framework to efficiently utilize available container capacity in intermodal transport services is needed for well-organized synchromodal processes. Following the Physical Internet paradigm and being induced by potential cost savings, transport operators and infrastructure managers will be motivated to collaborate and consequently more data will become available for analysis. As capacity data of transport operators is becoming increasingly available, it is getting easier to efficiently fill up of free capacity. Additionally, a better collaboration of fragmented transport flows, required to make them economically viable, can facilitate new transport solutions.
  • information/data -Providing high quality and standardized data as well as sharing and mutually exchanging information (open data) are key to creating new and innovative services.
  • ICT/ITS – It is essential to implement ITS and ICT systems in order to dynamically provide data and to be able to optimize transport planning. Long-term and automated planning need to consider the crucial role which data and information play in a synchromodal supply chain. Additionally, issues dealing with data security /data protection and relevant cybersecurity aspects must be solved. Cybersecurity aspects are described in Deliverable 4.3 of the PLATINA3 project.
  • physical infrastructure – Different aspects of terminal and port infrastructure were mentioned quite often within the reviewed literature. The basic prerequisite is that smart hubs must exist, and they must be connected by smart corridors. The location of the ports and production sites influences the infrastructure network configuration and its efficiency. The terminal design is relevant as well. The overall aim is to obtain an attractive utilization of this infrastructure which is realized by bundling transport flows to synchromodal transport streams.
  • legal/policy issues – Harmonized transport regulations applicable for all transport modes and geographical areas are indispensable for a functioning synchromodal network. Another important legal question is the one of liability for the transport, especially for any delay, loss or damage, which might not always be clear when the mode is switched spontaneously. Concluding unambiguous service level agreements topped up with proper insurance agreements is therefore highly recommended. Boundary conditions for data sharing are also vital with regard to the necessary collaboration between the stakeholders. Basically, legal security must be ensured for all involved parties.
  • awareness/mental shift – It is important to raise awareness on the advantages of synchromodal transport and to generate a mental shift among customers. If customers insist on booking specific modes on specific transport routes, the logistics service provider lacks the necessary freedom to optimize his transport flows in a synchromodal way. The mental shift also includes that all players must be aware that not the preparation of the transport itself is the primary feature of the service performance, but rather the capability to respond to certain incidents and choose the right alternative in this case.
  • cost/service/quality – Pricing, cost and service are important aspects within a synchromodal transport network. Synchromodal transports should be provided with at least the same level of benefits (price, carbon footprint) compared to traditional or unimodal transports. Quality and the offered service (such as on-time delivery, reliability and flexibility) must also fit customer’s needs, otherwise synchromodality is no suitable and competitive logistics concept. Unplanned waiting times for example must be penalized. Moreover, the pricing of synchromodal services is quite complex. Since the transport mode and the specific route are not determined in advance (rather on the spot), it is difficult to determine the actual occurring cost-price and to translate this into a market price. This conflicts with the need that customers require certainty to know the price well in advance. Similar complexities arise in terms of insuring the transport. Finally, prerequisites for high-quality services are reliable infrastructure and the availability of some first movers to invest in innovation and new technologies, which means taking risks as supplier of synchromodal transport services.

There are drivers which can accelerate the door-to-door supply chain towards connective networks within a synchromodal framework:

  • Technological advancements such as network computing, Big Data, artificial intelligence
  • The high and unstable price of fuel that triggers the necessity for cost-saving transport solutions,
  • The enormous rise in congestion road infrastructure and limited options to expand road capacity
  • The increased environment-consciousness and public awareness about road traffic side-effects on local communities,
  • The strict environmental regulations at EU and international level to reduce emissions by 2030/2040/2050
  • Similarly to the situation with passenger transport, regulatory advancements allowing for multi-modal ticketing of freight where minimum conditions are guaranteed irrespective of the mode.

However, there are still important challenges for applying the synchromodal transport framework. Firstly, itis a networking and collaboration with the core of trust and customer relationship concept. The establishment of such a network is based on mutual respect and trust, as the most important prerequisite for synchromodal processes. Due to the fact that many entities may not be willing to cooperate with competitors and/or do not yet see the benefits, a new way of thinking is required to generate a synchromodal network which is concentrated on trust and the advantages of cooperation and benefit sharing instead of competition. This requires a mind shift which poses a barrier.

The second limitation is complexity in planning. Planning and also the simulation of transport routes are vital to create an effective synchromodal transport network. Items such as new customer preferences, route traffics, and accessible resources of logistics nods should be assessed and examined prior to planning. Monitoring and forecasting are crucial factors for optimising transport performances. Accordingly, a freight transport network is to be set up based on the demand mapping and forecasting tools.

The third restriction is the connectivity of the existing different IT systems and data-sharing platforms. A high-quality data-sharing platform is a key to have a mutual exchange of data from different stakeholders such as shipping company, freight forwarders, and port terminal. GDPR and data-sharing is a key issue, indeed. Economic operators, customers and logistic companies, they all are very reluctant to share their data. It seems that there could be a way if the data-sharing platform could be able to share only very limited information to each actor, depending on the role with maximum respect to data protection and privacy For example, the transporter does not need to know what the content of the goods is (just a category, maybe) nor who is the (first) sender and the (ultimate) receiver. The transporter only needs to know that a certain amount of goods (volume, weight, packaging) needs to be taken from A to B.

The interview results (as described in chapter 8) suggest that the contacted experts representing the private sector agreed on the basic conditions which shall ensure the success of synchromodal transport chains. All statements that were received have been clustered and assigned to three categories (transport related, infrastructure related and framework related criteria) that have been developed based on the literature review.

Cooperation, efficiency, flexibility, service levels and sufficient volumes are five identified characteristics deemed by all involved experts as necessary for each functional transport system. Indeed, the shipped freight volumes must be high enough to ensure that real time switching and bundling of goods work within the synchromodal network.

Half of the respondents doubted that companies are willing to cooperate in such an intensive way that they are able to synchronize their transport flows as part of the network. Pricing strategies, legal and political framework as well as the mental shift are other important factors mentioned during the discussions. Accurate planning as well as ICT/ITS and other information systems have been rated as relevant, the experts partly mentioned that some of these systems already exist and are ready for being used to coordinate synchromodal transports on particular logistics legs.

In conclusion, existing shortcomings on the freight transport markets, e.g. the lack of reliability and punctuality of inland waterway transport services is a source of dissatisfaction among customers representing all market segments causing potential customers to consider IWT as incapable of meeting their logistical needs in a synchromodal environment.

Therefore, the IWT sector must prepare for a rapid and substantial evolution. It will have to think differently about its value propositions, continuously developing and improving products and services that evoke extreme responses, uncover missed customer segments, look, check and adopt services developed in other sectors that can be a source of inspiration of good practices.

This will require all stakeholders to question long established principles and practices and to develop more sustainable and promising market opportunities by thinking faster, by thinking differently, by thinking partnerships and open collaboration. The cooperation with actors from other modes will be key in order to apply innovations form other sectors and to develop high quality and seamless mobility solutions. This requires liaising with relevant stakeholders, most definitely including the logistics industry.

To this end, a Europe-wide Synchromodal Platform or a federation of platforms capable to interact with (a) local/national/regional logistics platforms to provide pan-European real-time solutions/offers and (b) individual carriers seeking alternative solutions/offers will be able to overcome the existing barriers by connecting the existing data sources and platforms. This platform should serve as the collection point of data from the providers and function as a decision-support tool. Such a European wide platform will be highly dependent on technological developments in automated data collection and exchange. EU projects FENIX 1.0 (further detailed later in this deliverable) and the ensuing FENIX 2.0 (still in its infancy) may contribute directly to that.

As a first step, a one-stop shop solution building upon the corridor approach and the concept of physical internet will be able to aggregate data across several platforms for capacity and transport demand and offer both protection of critical data and the possibility to connect to operative elements used in production to carry out transport tasks.

[1] Corridors, Hubs and Synchromodality, Research & Innovation Roadmap, ALICE,, p.16

[2] Historical Evolution of Synchromodality: A First Step Towards the Vision of Physical
Internet. Proceedings of the Second Physical Internet Conference, Haller, A., Pfoser, S., Putz, L.-M., Schauer, O. 2015, 6- 8 July, Paris, France.

[3] Critical success factors of synchromodality: results from a case study and literature review, Sarah Pfoser, Horst Treiblmaier, Oliver Schauer, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, 2016

[4] A supply chain concerns the entire production and distribution chain from raw materials to final customer and finally “reverse logistics”.

[5] Final report Implementation Roadmap Synchromodal Transport Systeem, TNO, 2011

[6] Synchromodal logistics: An overview of critical success factors, enabling technologies, and open research issues, Riccardo Giustia , Daniele Manerbaa,b , Giorgio Brunoa , Roberto Tade, 2019

[7] Critical success factors of synchromodality: results from a case study and literature review, Sarah Pfoser, Horst Treiblmaier, Oliver Schauer, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, 2016

Executive summary

The PLATINA3 project

The Horizon 2020 PLATINA3 project provides a platform for the implementation of the NAIADES III Action Plan. PLATINA3 is structured around four fields (Market, Fleet, Jobs & Skills, Infrastructure) of which Work Package 1 (WP 1) deals with various aspects of the inland navigation market, such as 1) increased modal shift and decarbonisation; 2) R&D actions to promote optimal market uptake conditions; 3) synchromodal logistic chains; 4) reducing economic and financial barriers to modal shift; and 5) policy and regulatory actions encouraging the use of IWT.  

This report presents the conclusions from PLATINA3’s Task 1.1 which assesses the needs for further technological, logistical and marketing and communication innovations to support modal shift, in view of attracting higher volumes and supporting decarbonisation, on the basis of identified new and growing markets. This deliverable builds upon existing studies and analyses, as well as the outcomes of the 3rd PLATINA3 Stage Event (10-11 February 2022) where experts made presentations on this topic and a draft deliverable was showcased.

Scope of the report and definitions

The scope of the report is limited to analysing the obstacles and opportunities for modal shift to IWT overall but mainly in selected new and growing markets. Marketing and communication as additional tools to strengthen modal shift are also explored. Although an important sub-market for IWT, this report does not cover passenger transport and focuses on freight transport activities only. Given the scope of other tasks in PLATINA3 Work Package 1, this report does not address the economic and financial barriers to modal shift (covered by task 1.4 of the PLATINA3 project) nor the purely regulatory actions encouraging the use of IWT (covered by task 1.5 of the PLATINA3 project). Loading units and transhipment as well as synchromodal logistics are included to some extent in this report given the synergies between them in selected new and growing markets. That being said, these two aspects are covered more broadly by Tasks 1.2 and 1.3 respectively.

Modal shift refers to relative changes in the market shares of different modes of transportation in relation to each other for specific cargo flows. A modal shift usually occurs when one mode gains a comparative advantage in a similar market over another. These shifts respond both to macro- and microeconomic factors.

The term “new and growing markets” describes, on the one hand, market segments where IWT is either not yet present or in an early stage of development and could be considered in coming years as a suitable transport solution. On the other, it refers to existing markets with strong potential for further growth. New and growing markets can determine future products transported by inland vessels, but they often imply new types of logistics, vessels, and areas of operation.

Current state of play and policy context

In June 2021, the European Commission launched the NAIADES-III Action Plan[1], which sets an “Inland Navigation Action Plan 2021-2027” aligned with the Multi-Annual Financial Framework to meet the objectives of the EGD and SSMS. One of NAIADES-III’s two core objectives is shifting more freight to inland waterways from other transport modes (modal shift), thereby contributing to reducing GHG emissions and limit road congestion. Underpinning this ambition is one of eight NAIADES-III policy flagships dedicated to updating the EU’s legal framework for intermodal transport to stimulate IWT modal share growth in the short and medium term. This flagship aims to boost modal shift to more sustainable and low-carbon transport modes such as IWT by establishing a level-playing field across transport modes when it comes to environmental performance. In this context, the PLATINA3 project provides the knowledge base for the implementation of the NAIADES III Action Plan.

On 17 October 2018, the Ministers of the five Member States of the CCNR (Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland) adopted the Mannheim declaration. Recalling the sector’s high potential for development and innovation, they vowed to reinforce the role of inland navigation by promoting faster and more efficient inland vessel cargo handling in seaports and tighter integration of IWT into digital and multimodal logistic chains.

Inland navigation is today at a crossroads, facing economic as well as environmental challenges that threaten to fundamentally alter its position in the European transportation market. On the one hand, unpredictable water levels and the energy transition imperative; on the other, a slowdown in global trade, the structural decline of fossil-based cargo, and the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, inland waterway transport (IWT) is expected to play an important role on the path towards sustainable transport in 2050, as foreseen in the European Green Deal (EGD). In fact, the EGD aims to cut 90% of emissions from transport by 2050 to reach climate neutrality and shift a substantial portion of the freight transported by road (currently accounting for circa 76% of EU inland freight) to inland navigation (circa 6%) and rail (circa 18%), namely through measures to increase the handling capacity of inland waterways and better integrate IWT into multimodal logistics chains. More specifically, the European Commission’s (EC) Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy establishes the following milestones: “transport by inland waterways and short sea shipping will increase by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050 compared to 2015”.

New and growing markets for IWT

The 3rd PLATINA3 Stage Event (10-11 February 2022) featured discussions on new and growing markets which might trigger modal shift towards IWT.[2] The following options were discussed: 

  • Urban logistics
  • Waste / biomass transport; 
  • Circular economy / new materials; 
  • New energies, including hydrogen and other alternative fuels; 
  • New trade routes, connections to TEN-T corridors, core and comprehensive networks; 
  • Container transport.

These new and growing markets are needed to respond to a decrease or saturation of existing markets (e.g. transportation of coal, ore, oil products). On the demand side, several commodity segments have reached saturation, the energy transition changes product composition, and world trade is experiencing structural slowdown. On the supply side, more difficult navigation conditions are expected to intensify due to climate change while low water events stress the need to diversify operations towards urban logistics where water levels fluctuations are much less severe.

Results of the analysis and recommendations

IWT offers clear opportunities for modal shift in urban settings and shows the viability of IWT under specific circumstances, despite the competitive pressure from road transport. An advantage of inland navigation is that it can transport such goods in different forms (pallets, barrels, containers, bulk, etc.), is able to scale easily while benefitting from alternative and renewable energy solutions. Demographic growth, in combination with saturated and sensitive road infrastructure, vibrations, accidents, noise emissions and other negative externalities provoked by road transport in cities, are all important factors which offer potential for IWT in modern urban environments. Therefore, the current increased focus on urban mobility, including via newly established expert groups, could be a crucial opportunity for IWT to seize.

New transport flows resulting from circular economy activities are certainly an opportunity for IWT, particularly in an urban setting. IWT could serve as an ideal transport solution to spearhead the development of circular economies while enabling more efficient waste management, valorisation, and storage in urban environments.

It is expected that new transport opportunities for inland navigation will also emerge in the wake of the energy transition (e.g. biofuels, hydrogen carriers, project cargo, such as wind turbine blades and components and other infrastructure and hardware needed for energy transition). In particular, inland waterway transport can be used to distribute alternative fuels and energy sources such as biofuels, other hydrogen carriers and e-fuels, albeit requiring possible adaptations depending on the fuel distributed. Should larger volumes of such fuels be imported overseas from other continents via seagoing vessels, IWT will appear as a logical follow-up to transport them to the hinterland of European seaports (e.g. Rotterdam, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Constanta, Hamburg, Le Havre, Marseille). 

For instance, there is growing interest at European level for hydrogen as a clean energy source. Its applications are manifold (industry, transport sector, power generation) and demand has been steadily growing since 1975. While it is today overwhelmingly produced from fossil fuels, hydrogen can be produced from renewables (i.e. electrolysis using green energy from wind, water or solar), meaning there is significant potential for emissions reduction from a life cycle point of view.

At European and national level, public policy is pushing for the development of hydrogen, with the adoption of hydrogen strategies. As hydrogen can be transported via maritime vessels, inland vessels, and pipelines, it is a promising cargo for IWT, especially if combined with new, innovative tanker designs, LOHC technology, and integrated into regional and global value chains through ports.

Biomass can be used to produce biofuels, heat, and electricity, and its use is on an upward trend. This versatility is undoubtedly an important factor boosting its attractiveness. The advantages of IWT for the transport of biomass are manifold: reliability, overall safety, and high carrying capacity. Transport of biomass via IWT has already been proven successful as shown by several examples for instance, in the Port of Mannheim or Straubing. In addition, unlike wind turbines, for which ports and waterways might need to adapt their infrastructure, biomass/biofuel cargo handling in inland ports does not need adaptations or special handling equipment. Furthermore, electricity and heat produced from biomass are unaffected by weather fluctuations, an important aspect compared to the fluctuations of wind and solar energy.

Uncertainty remains regarding the energy transition trajectory of our societies, an uncertainty that affects all renewable energies. Despite the need for clarity about the future shape of energy supply, technological development is characterised by uncertainties, path dependencies and by the interplay of technology and commercial successes and failures. This technological uncertainty can lead to a specific form of inertia: why invest in new production processes for alternative technologies when uncertainty is high regarding their future use and demand? This will inevitably impact the IWT sector and its micro-economic decisions to specialize or not in biomass/biofuel/e-fuel transport. Beyond these aspects, which are inherent to the energy transition and the development of new technologies, whether or not such expected new markets will develop is also strongly dependent on the regulatory and political sphere.

This report shows, firstly, that new markets exist, some with higher potential than others. Secondly, it is not a given that inland navigation will penetrate such new markets. In most cases, adaptations will be necessary in terms of logistics, vessel technology, vessel design and vessel size. Commercial, logistical and technological challenges will arise and will be affected, inter alia, by the degree of intermodal competition.

Increasing the usage of all communication and marketing possibilities will enable IWT operators to influence and inform other economic actors on the importance and advantages of IWT, namely reliability, economic efficiency, efficient use of available infrastructure capacity and sustainability. In other words, electronic communications and marketing inform and demonstrate to the wider economic operators the benefits of using IWT as a permanent business option. Efforts in favour of such communication and marketing innovations should be promoted.

Despite these promising avenues for growth, several obstacles remain to be overcome in order to enhance modal shift to inland navigation. These include tackling congestion at seaports and seaport-hinterland transport inefficiencies, combating low/high water events to ensure IWT’s reliability over the long term, developing additional financing opportunities and improving communication about them as well as about the pertinent regulatory framework, and build awareness of IWT’s potential as a promising modal choice for any European shipper.

Furthermore, the expected rapid development of battery electric trucks, as estimated by TNO[3] in October 2022, puts pressure on the speed of the energy transition in IWT. There is a risk that the inland fleet does not adapt to climate neutrality and low air pollutant emission performance as swiftly as the road or rail fleet if the regulatory framework remains the same and if the financial supports is not increased. The competition from road and rail might prove difficult to counteract. Consequently, without strong and rapid interventions in the IWT sector, inland navigation’s environmental advantage will be quickly eroded compared thus deteriorating the rationale for a modal shift from road to IWT as envisaged in the European Green Deal.

[1] European Commission, “NAIADES III action plan”, June 2021, NAIADES III action plan (

[2] Presentations made by: Daan Schalk “New market opportunities and strategies”; Geer van Overloop “River Drones: innovation as a driving force for modal shift”; Heinrich Kerstgens “Decarbonisation of logistics and modal shift towards inland waterway transport”; Norbert Kriedel “New market opportunities in inland navigation transport”; and Thierry Vanelslander “How to increase IWT market share?”.

[3] New Mobility News, “TNO study: Battery-electric truck most cost-effective option from 2030”,

Juha Schweighofer on climate resilient vessels

Executive summary


According to NAIADES III, the use of the EU’s inland waterway network is currently not optimised due to the lack of coherent infrastructure and fairway quality assurance. Droughts and floods can severely disrupt transport activities by: temporarily blocking waterway sections, imposing restrictions on the amounts of loads transported, and requiring additional vessels to compensate for reduced load factors, or even a shift to other modes of transport. In consequence, under such circumstances, the supply of raw materials and manufactured goods can become insufficient or even interrupted, the transportation costs will increase and the impact on the economy can be dramatic. For example, in the third and fourth quarters of the year 2018, the production losses of the German industry due to persistent low water levels on Rhine river amounted to approximately 4.7 billion EUR. This corresponds to 0.63 % of the entire German industrial production. Several companies had to cope with substantial production losses, like BASF in the order of 250 million EUR and ThyssenKrupp in the order of 100 million EUR.

In general, in the past 200 years, such low water events occurred regularly, although in the last 50 years these events have become less and shorter lasting. However, also in the light of no climate change such events will happen in the coming decades. Accounting for climate change impacts on the hydrology, it is expected that such events will occur more often in the future. For example, in the Rhine area (Lobith) the low water event of 2018 is projected to take place every 10 to 20 years instead of once every 60 years till 2050, according to research findings of Deltares. The impact of the past longer lasting low-water events on inland waterway transport was not that strong as in 2018. The reason is that in those times the vessels were smaller and less vulnerable to water-level changes compared to the much larger new ones which entered operation in the past 20 years. This holds also for a part of the pusher and tug fleet on the Danube which displayed initial design draughts between 1.1 m and 1.5 m in the 1960s and 1970s, while the draughts of most later designed and today’s pushers vary between approximately 1.5 m and 2.2 m, allowing for higher propulsive power, larger convoys and, thereby, for greater energy and cost efficiency of the transport at normal water-level conditions.

Considering these severe impacts on the economy and the inland waterway transport as result of low water, which is being increased by climate change impacts, it is necessary to re-evaluate the logistical concepts in place today, including the size and design of inland vessels. New concepts shall contribute to the reduction of the vulnerability of inland waterway transport to low-water events, and they shall be implemented relatively fast, e.g. within a few years, in dedicated single cases e.g. where severe economic losses due to low water shall be avoided.

However, it is stressed that in order to reduce the vulnerability of the entire EU fleet, comprising more than 12 000 operational vessels (PROMINENT (2015)) of which approximately 40 % are assumed to be vulnerable to low water dedicated infrastructure measures, starting with proper maintenance and management of waterways on short term, have to be considered for improving the climate resilience of inland waterway transport on the long term. The argument is also that such a great number of vessels cannot be replaced within a reasonable time frame, considering the associated costs and available ship-yard capacities. In addition, if infrastructure measures are neglected, the navigation conditions will become worse as a consequence. This would result in newly built shallow-water vessels becoming also vulnerable again to climate change effects, reducing thereby the service quality of inland waterway transport.

Impacts on vessel performance and economy

This report gives a comprehensive overview of the impacts of severe low water on the performance of inland waterway transport and the economy. The impacts can be summarised as described in the following:

  • The cargo carrying capacity will be reduced. The reduction is depending on the ship size: larger vessels are more vulnerable to low water than smaller ones if the load factor is considered.
  • The power demand and fuel consumption increase due to increased resistance and reduced propulsive efficiency and therefore the emissions increase.
  • The vessel speed decreases and the sailing time increases.
  • More vessel movements will be necessary for the transportation of the same amount of cargo.
  • The manoeuvrability becomes worse, which is depending on the ship type. In certain cases, also positive effects can occur.
  • The stopping duration and distance increase due to higher risk of ventilation, reduced thrust and a greater added mass.
  • Starting the movement and operation of a vessel may be prevented by ventilation of the propeller, resulting in a reduction of the thrust.
  • Common pushers with a draught of approximately 1.8 m are more vulnerable to low water than common motor cargo vessels with a minimum draught of approximately 1.3 m as they have to stop operation at around 2.2 m water depth if for squat and safety allowance 0.4 m are assumed.
  • The safety of navigation is reduced due to greater risk of grounding and more vessel movements.
  • The transportation costs per tkm and freight rates increase.
  • The supply of raw materials and transportation of manufactured products can become insufficient or even interrupted.
  • Significant losses in production amounting even to several billion EUR in Western Europe can occur.
  • Finally, goods will be shifted to other modes of transport, which will be difficult to revert, as well as which can cause capacity limitations of climate-mitigation relevant infrastructure like railways. A loss transport demand may therefore also occur as result of relocation of production and distribution facilities.

While several measures for coping with low water are already known from past research, e.g. VBD (2004), this report is focussed on recent findings, being clustered in options for shallow water vessels, most recent developments and dedicated subsidy programmes.

Technical options for shallow-water vessels

Suitable propulsion systems of shallow-water vessels aim at preventing possible propeller ventilation, as well as loss of propulsive efficiency at low water while displaying in the best case no increase in energy demand at normal water conditions compared with similar standard vessels. A very effective measure fulfilling this criterion is the application of a flex tunnel with a ducted propeller, which is a further development of the standard propeller tunnel allowing for optimum performance at normal water conditions without a fixed tunnel, which increases the power demand, e.g. a 10 % reduction of fuel consumption is reported by Damen. At small draught the flex tunnel is activated and prevents ventilation. This product is commercially available from Damen Marine Components. Further measures in addition to propeller tunnel and flex tunnel comprise the application of multiple propellers (e.g. three or four instead of two), reducing the propeller load, however, demanding careful investigations with respect to the proper inflow of the water. In cases with very high propeller loads, the application of ducted propellers is very effective as a part of the thrust demanded will be created by the duct.

A bow thruster improves the manoeuvring behaviour of a vessel, which usually becomes worse with decreasing water depth. The stopping distance and time, increasing with decreasing water depths, will be reduced due to the additional thrust of the bow thruster acting in opposite direction of the movement of the vessel and braking it. It supports also the vessel movement from standstill as it provides additional thrust reducing thereby the high load of the main propulsion device and the risk of cavitation and ventilation.

The draught of a vessel can be reduced by several solutions for weight reduction comprising the application of high tensile steel, other material than steel like aluminium alloys, composites and even wood in combination with steel, Sandwich Panel Systems, adhesive bonding, optimised framing, and weight optimisation by direct strength calculations. The impact of light weight solutions on the draught of a cargo vessel is very limited. According to the ECCONET project, for larger vessels, a draught compensation of around 10 cm was obtained (ECCONET (2012)). However, lightweight solutions can be combined with other measures, e.g. the increase of the width (beam) of the vessel, for minimisation of the draught. Lightweight solutions are expected to increase the construction costs, and one has to make a case-by-case decision is the minor reduction of draught worth this cost increase.

Shallow-water hulls and concepts for new buildings to be operated on the Danube have been developed in the recent years:

A pusher with superior shallow-water performance compared with common standard pushers with a draught of approximately 1.8 m was developed featuring the following characteristics: LOA = 30 m, BOA = 11.00 m, H = 2.5 m, T = 1.4 m, three diesel powered drive trains with 700 kW each, three ducted propellers in tunnels, bow thruster 250 up to 300 kW. Taking into account the benefits of the application of the latest technological achievements increasing efficiency, safety, environmental performance and comfort, a new pusher design will be most probably superior to a conventional elder design created according to the standards 30 or more years ago. This report contains a set of guidelines for the design of a Danube shallow water pusher taken from Radojčić et al. (2021).

Starting with the Innovative Danube Vessel project (IDV (2014)), several developments with respect to shallow-water motor cargo vessels were carried out, finally resulting in a wide-body self-propelled X-type vessel for the Danube, displaying a design draught of 2.3 m and a respectable deadweight of 2248 t. The low draught was achieved by increasing the width and reducing the height of the vessel, combined with direct strength calculations and goal-based design of its structure resulting in a light weight not exceeding the one of a standard design, although partially strengthening of the structure had to be foreseen. The propulsion system is diesel powered with twin ducted propellers (propeller diameter = 1.55 m).

In the Horizon 2020 EU project NOVIMAR, two shallow draught versions of the NOVIMAR Class Va container roro vessel have been designed with the purpose to enable navigation in shallow waters such as parts of the river Danube and the Rhine: one “stern access version” concept and one “double end access version” concept. The shallow draught design comes unavoidably with a number of draw-backs. With no cargo below the main deck, the space utilisation and cargo space capacity are reduced as well as the stability due to a higher centre of gravity. However, the concepts have the potential to provide attractive waterborne services, where available water depth is a significant limitation. The maim dimensions are: LOA = 104 m, BOA = 11.45 m, H = 3.0 m, T = 2.0 m, TEU = 104 (a’ 11.3 t, deadweight = 1317 t, first version) and 100 (a’ 11.8 t, deadweight = 1298 t, second version), up to three tiers of containers are possible, PB =2 x 550 kW (2 x 750 hp). 

Also for operation in the Rhine area, several tanker concepts have been developed which are already now in operation or which will enter operation in 2022 and in the coming years, see below: “most recent vessels concepts under construction and in operation”.

The creation of additional buoyancy was initially investigated in the FP7 EU project ECCONET. The basic idea is based on devices creating additional buoyancy when needed for coping with low water. Under favourable conditions, close to those for which the ship is actually optimised, the devices would be put away and the ship would continue the service with optimal performance. Based on the first results, further development is being carried out in the Horizon 2020 project NOVIMOVE, including more detailed performance calculations and comprehensive design activities. Solutions for the creation of additional buoyancy are moveable side blisters made of steel of different shapes or inflatable devices like membrane air pads. Further solutions comprise foldable buoyancy elements integrated into the ship’s body which can be laterally extracted. At present, practical experiences of side blisters in use, be it cylindrical or laterally foldable solutions are not known yet. Finally, the usage of a dock ship taking a vessel onboard at a reduced final draught of the transportation system has been considered in NOVIMOVE. The conceptual design of a dock ship is oriented towards a selected bottleneck, e.g. a distinct shallow water area. To pass short sections of the fairway with insufficient water depth, two different attempts are conceivable to help loaded vessels; on the one hand a powered dock ship and on the other hand a similar module without own propulsion system.

Stakeholder interviews

A comprehensive set of stakeholder interviews is available in Scholten and Rothstein (2012). 417 persons representing shipowners were asked for an interview, 55 complete questionnaires were returned.  According to the shipowners interviewed the following adaptation measures relating to ship technology can be thought of as feasible: modified aft-ship form, additional usage of (smaller) vessels, construction and provision of smaller vessels, 24-hours operation of vessels, usage of light-weight materials, better adaptation of the amount of cargo to be loaded to available fairway depths, as well as improved manoeuvrability. Arguments against the measures listed are mainly the associated costs and minimum draught of vessels being not reduced, as well as shortage of staff if vessels are to be operated 24 hours per day. Here some potential for improvement was observed: only about one third of vessels involved in the interviews were operated 24 hours a day, although 75 % of the vessels had two or more persons with a boat-master certificate on board, allowing for 24-hours operation. Finally, the importance of financing smaller vessels by banks was highlighted.

Most recent research

FlaBi: The overall objective of the joint project “FlaBi” is to increase the resilience of inland vessels during pronounced periods of drought by extending their operational limits. To achieve this goal, innovative ship designs with suitable propulsion systems in combination with lightweight structures are developed for the requirements of the Rhine and Elbe river at extreme low water levels. In addition, a retrofit concept for propulsion and steering devices are developed for the existing fleet, which will improve suitability for extreme low-water conditions. In the sub-project “FlaBiTec”, DST is investigating three different propulsion concepts, a 2nd generation blade-chain drive, a modified paddle wheel drive and the conventional ducted propeller with regard to their operational limits. The appropriate integration of the propulsors into the ship’s hull represents a major challenge. In addition to different propulsors, design measures to reduce the lightweight are also being investigated. The technical developments will be suitably combined in dedicated ship designs. Subsequent model tests serve to identify the operational limits of the designed ships and enable a comparison with existing ships.

Duration: December 2020 – November 2023.

DüPro, based on the outcomes of the project “Determination of the effective propeller inflow for inland navigation” of DST focussed on systematic investigations of the complex interactions between ship, propulsor and waterway. For this purpose, numerous propulsion and open water tests with different arrangements were carried out. Building upon the results of the propeller inflow project, two of the hull forms tested there were built on a larger scale, so that additional information on scale effects could be obtained. In addition, one aft ship each with rudder propellers and the modern flex-tunnel concept was designed, built on a model scale and tested. The investigations were supplemented by CFD simulations and PIV measurements.

Duration: November 2018 – May 2022

NOVIMOVENovel inland waterway transport concepts for moving freight effectively is a Horizon 2020 EU project which focusses amongst others on smart river navigation by merging satellite (Galileo) and real time river water depths data; smooth passage through bridges/locks by a dynamic scheduling system for better corridor management along the TEN-T Rhine-Alpine (RALP) route; and concepts for innovative vessels that can adapt to low water condition while maintaining a full payload. Some of the measures mentioned above with respect to additional buoyancy were already preliminarily considered in previous projects like the FP7-ECCONET (steel side blisters, inflatable blisters and foldable buoyancy elements as theoretical concepts). Building upon the preliminary results, in NOVIMOVE further developments are carried out aiming at raising the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of these concepts. The corresponding work includes iterative detailing of hydrodynamic characteristics, regulatory and operational aspects, determination of related investment costs (CAPEX) and operating cost (OPEX) as well as structural design. For the latest developments, the reader is advised to visit the website below.

Duration: June 2020 – May 2024

Practical implementations: most recent vessels concepts under construction and in operation

The BASF shallow-water tanker is a highly innovative vessel currently under construction to enter operation end of 2022. Following the experience with the low water levels of the Rhine in 2018 when a suitable ship and sufficient alternative transport capacity was not available, BASF decided to acquire a dedicated tanker in order to secure its production at Ludwigshafen. The vessel features the following characteristics improving its performance at low and normal water conditions: increased main dimensions: L = 135 m, B = 17.5 m instead of L = 110 m, B = 11.4 m; improved cargo carrying capacity at low water: 650 t at T = 1.2 m, and 2500 t at T = 2.05 m; diesel-electric propulsion system with stage V engines for very low emissions; three electric drivetrains with three propellers optimised for shallow water operation and normal water conditions; the outer propellers have a smaller diameter than the centre propeller which ensures additional thrust at normal water conditions; three rudder blades behind the outer propellers for sufficient rudder force, one rudder blade at the centre propeller; one integrated Van der Velden® FLEX Tunnel left and right of the outer drive trains; hydrodynamic optimisation using model tests; lightweight construction ensuring high structural stability by transferring methods from seagoing shipbuilding to inland waterway vessels.

The HGK gas tanker “Gas 94” entered operation in September 2021 as answer to the low-water event of 2018. A contract for the construction of second tanker to be delivered in 2023 has been signed in 2022, and five additional vessels are to follow in the coming years. The improved shallow-water performance has been achieved by proper design and engineering and not by usage of alternative materials. The vessel displays the following features: L = 110 m, B = 12.5 m (slightly increased breadth instead of 11.45 m) , depth = 5.6 m; voluminous foreship; diffusor-like aft ship preventing ventilation at low water depths; small propeller diameters; reduced draught by 30 to 40 cm; Power Management System and diesel-electric propulsion: three ducted rudder propellers, each driven by a 405 kWe electric motor: 30 % less CO2 emissions; optimisation of design of cargo tanks for weight reduction; higher construction costs in comparison with standard vessels.

Dedicated subsidy programmes

In Germany the importance of coping with climate change impacts on inland waterway transport has been acknowledged in the national funding programme for the sustainable modernisation of inland vessels (Richtlinie zur Förderung der nachhaltigen Modernisierung von Binnenschiffen vom 24. Juni 2021). It supports amongst others dedicated measures for optimisation of cargo vessels for improved operation at low water. This can comprise for example: exchange of the aft ship by another one; optimisation of the aft ship by different constructive implementations, optimisation of the foreship by constructive modifications for reduction of resistance; installation of assistance solutions for improved manoeuvring, e.g. bow thrusters.

Following the same reasoning, In Austria, a subsidy programme containing similar items as the one of Germany has been initiated by the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, being currently under evaluation.

Needs for further development

In general, it is necessary to re-evaluate the logistical concepts in place today, including the size and design of vessels. According to the CCNR, the consideration of smaller vessels being able to be operated together with a lighter will gain more significance. In addition, research and development activities targeting existing vessels, as well as new buildings will be required. Such new concepts will contribute to the reduction of the vulnerability of inland waterway transport to low-water events, but they will not solve the problem what for additional measures with respect to climate resilient infrastructure, provision of reliable information with respect to navigation conditions, as well as logistics and vessel operation are required. While measures for adaptation of existing vessels are relatively limited (exchange of the aft ship could be viable solution), aiming largely at increasing the cargo capacity at low water, new buildings show a greater potential for implementation of a number of measures, e.g. lightweight solutions, multiple propulsion devices, hull-form optimisation, variation of main parameters, etc., resulting in improved shallow-water performance and competitive performance at normal water levels.

More research is needed with respect to the provision of reliable data on and forecasting of environmental framework conditions as a precondition for the proper retrofitting and design of inland waterway vessels. The adaptation measures shall not negatively affect the operation of vessels at normal navigation conditions, e.g. increasing the energy demand.

Better understanding of the real sailing profiles allows the vessels to be designed more in line with the real conditions, which is also required for the energy transition. The ship design has to be optimised for the real operating conditions, taking into account rising OPEX with sustainable energy carriers, new ship main dimensions, structures, drivetrains, hull forms and the associated hydrodynamics. Showing still a lot of room for improvement, manoeuvring models for automatic navigation shall be developed, leading possibly to a business case for smaller units, e.g. due to lower personnel costs as a part of the ship operation may be carried out automatically with less personnel. In general, measures relating to the improvement of the competitiveness of smaller, less vulnerable vessels in comparison to bigger ones shall be elaborated, including the creation of regulations for proper implementation. Investigations of extreme shallow water conditions request further research with respect to interaction with river beds and squat effects in combination with small under-keel clearance.

Reliable and efficient prediction of ship operation with ventilating propellers is to be further investigated. In general, model tests and numerical methods can be used for this purpose. Challenges of model tests relate to the assessment of scaling effects, correct propeller loading and application of proper friction deduction force. Numerical simulations are associated with high computational costs for large-Reynolds-number simulations and propeller modelling. Further challenges relate to turbulence modelling and free-surface capturing. The objectives to be achieved are save accelerations, save stopping and save manoeuvres.

Finally, the impact of the introduction of new low-emission or zero-emission solutions for coping with the climate objectives of the EU, increasing eventually the weight and size of vessels, e.g., by full-electric sailing or usage of hydrogen and fuel cells, has to be considered with respect to proper operation during low-water events.

With respect to the adaptation of the fleet, a dialogue between industry, logistics, politics, and environmental organisations, as well as regulations and funding for modernisation on European level will be necessary. Proper cooperation between the different stakeholders and an integrated approach for coping with climate change is necessary, what for also the European institutions are needed.

Welcome to the download section of PLATINA3 report D2.4 – Towards accurate European fleet data

The PLATINA3 Deliverable 2.4 “Towards accurate European fleet data” was prepared under the lead of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine. The work concludes regarding greening of the fleet that too limited quantity of data is available today to follow the evolution of the greening of the fleet. Reliable data on the evolution of engine types (from vessel certificates) or on the type and volume of fuel consumption (for propulsion and auxiliary uses) is necessary.

Although there is fragmented data available in some countries, there is a clear lack of such data on European level. It is therefore recommended to improve the accuracy of the European Hull Database and to adapt and expand the structure and to add attributes to include data for monitoring the greening of the fleet. It is also advised to enable efficient exchange with other databases. This can be taken into account in the revision of the European Hull Database by the European Commission.

1. Document download

For more information on CCNR:

2. Document preview

Welcome to the download section of PLATINA3 report D2.6 – Towards implementation of a label system for EU inland vessels.

The report is introduced by Martin Quispel, sr. expert project manager at Expertise- and Innovation Centre Barging and coordinator of the PLATINA3 project.

In order to promote low/zero emission vessels, an instrument is needed to recognise and reward such vessels. A task in PLATINA3 therefore developed options for an EU label or indexing method to express the energy and emission performance of vessels. It concludes that a big step can be made by implementing a system addressing the type of energy consumed by the vessel and the emission performance per kWh (greenhouse gasses and air pollutants). This provides a solid base of data and information.

Further synergies and functions can be added via inclusion of vessel design indicators and the productivity of the vessel (e.g. tonkilometres). It is now up to policy makers to make choices and to start implementation. All information is available in the PLATINA3 report and a brief overview is provided in a short video.

1. Video introduction

2. Document download

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Welcome to the download section of PLATINA3 report D2.5 – Funding and financing the energy transition of the European IWT fleet.

The report is introduced by Laure Roux, co-author of the deliverable and working as Market and Economic Affairs Administrator at Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine (CCNR) in Strasbourg.

In the video below, Roux presents 3 main conclusions on the topic of funding and financing the energy transition of the European Inland Waterway Transportation fleet. Furthermore, she provides recommendations for policy makers and stakeholders to make the transition a reality.

1. Video introduction

2. Document download

For more information on the CCNR:
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