Platform for the implementation of a future inland navigation action programme

Policy measures for green IWT

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.  

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