EU & waterway transport


EU NAIADES programme (2014-2020) mid term
In September 2018, the Commission presented a mid-term evaluation of the EU inland waterway transport action programme and listed ongoing actions to implement NAIADES up to 2020. The EU adopted a regulation to reduce air emissions from existing engines, a directive on technical standards for vessels and a directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. A new approach has been taken to state aid in inland port infrastructure investment. As the European Committee of experts (CESNI) now draws up standards for vessels, information technology and crew to which the EU and other regulations will refer, progress is made towards uniform application across EU waterways. The EU sector organizations representing barge owners and operators have bundled forces in the EU IWT Platform. The Commission continues with a study on crew requirements and further work in the field of infrastructure and digitalization. 

What is NAIADES and why is it important

  • It is the EU waterway transport policy aiming for a better use of inland shipping to relieve heavily congested transport corridors.
  • It is the EU action programme to develop waterway transport. The 1st Naiades programme ran from 2006 until 2013. The 2nd runs now from 2014 until 2020.
  • Waterway transport is also supported through the funding and financing programmes Connecting Europe Facility, Horizon2020, LIFE and the EU Structural and Investment Funds.

 Calls for new inland waterway action plan (2021-2027)

In the Naiades Expert group, INE has pointed to the importance of preparing a timely strategy and action plan beyond 2020. Important challenges such as climate change, greening and digitalization require specific steps for developing inland waterways. The Council of transport ministers has adopted Council conclusions at the start of December calling the Commission to prepare a 3rd Naiades action plan by 2020. The Parliament followed suit with a motion for resolution listing its future priorities. INE is happy to see that the Parliament calls for better integration of inland waterways in urban, port and digital policies and to fully exploit its potential for transporting goods and passengers, given that many EU cities are located along waterways. This will reduce traffic jams and greatly improve the quality of life of citizens. The Parliament also recommends exploiting synergies between clean energy grids and waterway networks to make optimal use of hydropower generated at waterways, wind energy in ports and other clean energy sources at waterside mobility hubs for supplying transport, households and industries while minimising distribution costs.

What is HORIZON2020 and why is it important

  • It is the current EU programme which supports research as well as innovation pilots, pre-normative research and coordination actions.
  • It co-finances research inter alia into transport, digitalisation, climate change and decarbonisation including for waterway transport. It supports inland waterways to invest in cross-sector and cross-border innovation
  • The Horizon2020 programme ends in 2020 and will be followed by the HorizonEurope programme (2021-2027) with the largest ever budget.


Investing in fit-for-future innovation
Under Horizon2020, a number of projects like Prominent, Novitrans enabled investment in innovation for inland waterway transport. Together with SeaEurope, INE has worked towards joining forces between the inland waterway sector and the Waterborne Technology Platform to identify joint waterborne interests and bring them at a higher political level. INE appreciates a closer cooperation with the Waterborne Technology Platform and the Logistics Technology Platform ALICE. INE has brought a group of stakeholders together to write up a Strategic Research Agenda for Inland waterway transport and Ports, outlining a vision towards 2050 and the 1st range of activities to achieve this vision. As nobody knows what the world will look like in 2050, it is a work in progress open for further contributions. As a multi-disciplinary exercise, it provides input for the next EU research and innovation programme HorizonEurope (2021-2027).

Ongoing Innovation projects
Green & circular economy at work
Green & smart logistics at work


Policy recommendations up to 2020


Preparation by the European Commission of the EU Naiades 3 action programme in close cooperation with public and private stakeholders
Full integration of inland waterway transport in multimodal and decarbonization policies



Integration of dedicated innovation topics for inland waterways in the EU research and innovation programme HorizonEurope building on the work of the Strategic Research Agenda for Inland waterway transport and Ports



Robust pre-normative research and innovation-rewarding legislation

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Brainstorm Workshop for the Strategic Inland Waterway Transport Agenda for Europe will be organised on 9 September 2019 in Brussels.

European Parliament adopts resolution on inland waterway transport and calls for follow-up action programme to support inland waterway transport by 2020

Release of Strategic Research Agenda: how will public and private actors in inland waterway transport innovate towards 2050 to help achieving the climate objectives and important societal needs 

The Council asks Commission to timely prepare the next policy programme for inland waterway transport