NAIADES action programme (2014-2020)

EU waterway transport policy aims for a better use of inland shipping to relieve heavily congested transport corridors. NAIADES is the umbrella programme to encourage more companies to use waterway transport. Waterway transport is also supported through the funding and financing programmes Connecting Europe Facility, Horizon2020 and the EU Structural & Investment Funds.

Inland Waterways in EU policy
The 2nd Naiades action programme (2014-2020), a dedicated inland waterway transport policy, is halfway. In 2016, the regulation for emission limits for new engines and the directive on technical requirements were adopted and CESNI has been set up to prepare uniform European standards significantly improving governance on technical navigation aspects. The EU adopted in 2017 the directive on professional qualifications to increase labour mobility and the number of qualified workers. A study ordered by the European Commission on seaports, inland ports and inland waterway transport shows that the growth potential of inland shipping is substantial in containers and agroproducts if policy measures are supportive: improvement of infrastructure and ICT systems, multimodality training, better coordination in the container chain and internalization of external costs plus setting up targets for recycling. The Central Rhine Commission presents similar findings in its market observation adding that future growth and development will also come from new market demand such as renewables and recyclables, urban distribution and commuter traffic to help relieve congestion.

Rewarding innovation
While statistics show that transport by inland waterways is concentrated in Western Europe, more countries discover their navigable waterways as an uncongested and low-carbon asset to move goods for long and short distances. Several new projects on water logistics and clean vessels pop up. Multiplication across the sector and EU partnerships with innovative multimodal logistics, digital and energy players requires additional strong EU support of national and regional incentives that address emerging market and societal demand, be it through coordination, regulation and funding programmes. Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation programme, supports 2 inland shipping projects for greening (“Prominent”) and digitalisation (“Novimar”). The work programme still foresees funding for automation, clean vessels and multimodal logistics.

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


Policy recommendations

The inland waterways and port sector have a common vision of green, smart and congestion- free transport and logistics servicing.

To turn this vision into reality, we need:

EU grants are a vital ingredient to enhance investments with a high EU added value and strong socio-economic benefits

Regulation to facilitate and accelerate decarbonization & digitalisation ensuring high standards, rewarding innovation and less administrative burden

Dedicated inland waterways & ports topics in EU programmes which are easily accessible. Ensure innovation is a responsibility of the entire logistics chain the entire logistics chain

Ambitious Inland Waterways & Ports Agenda for Europe (2021-30) with effective actions towards 2030 as successor & integration EU cross-sectoral policies

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