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20.3.3.  Inland waterway transport in the EU

    Inland waterways, which accounted for almost 14% of freight transport in the European Community, in the early 1970s, represented only 9% of that transport twenty years later. Yet, well-equipped waterways, such as the Rhine and the Rhone, are particularly efficient for bulk traffic and are capable of handling much more than the current traffic, provided investment is made in maintenance and works to improve the existing network.

    The European institutions reacted late in the day to the need for structural improvements in inland waterway transport in order to fight over-capacities and, hence, most over-capacity reductions in this sector were carried out at national level. However, since 1989, the inland waterway transport market was liberalised and inland waterway vessels used to carry goods between two or more points by inland waterway in the Member States were subjected to European measures for structural improvements in inland waterway transport [Regulation 1101/89]. These comprised the reduction of structural overcapacity by means of scrapping schemes coordinated at European level and supporting measures to avoid aggravation of existing overcapacity or the emergence of further overcapacity. Under the new Community-fleet capacity policy, introduced in 1999, the "old-for-new" instrument for regulating the capacity of the Community fleets was maintained as a standby mechanism set at zero, which could be reactivated only in the event of serious market disturbance [Regulation 718/1999, last amended by Regulation 546/2014].

    The conditions for issuing technical certificates for inland waterway vessels in all Member States are harmonised [Directive 2006/87]. A European framework for deploying and utilising harmonised river information services supports the development of inland waterway transport with a view to strengthening its safety, efficiency and environment-friendliness, and facilitating interfaces with other modes of transport [Directive 2005/44]. A Directive implements the European Agreement concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time in inland waterway transport, concluded on 15 February 2012 by the European Barge Union (EBU), the European Skippers Organisation (ESO) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) [Directive 2014/112].

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