Naiades 3 action programme published

24 June 2021

The Commission adopted the long awaited Naiades action plan for 2021-2027. It is the follow-up to the 2nd Naiades action programme that ended in 2020. The EU Naiades action plan provides the EU framework to support the development of inland waterway transport. The new action plan fully incorporates the EU Green Deal objectives and the Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy, and aims as such to boost future proof inland waterway transport. Inland waterway transport is considered as an essential tool in the fundamental transformation of the EU transport systems towards zero-emission and multi-modal mobility.

8 Flagships and 35 actions

The two core objectives are:

  • shifting more freight transport to inland waterways
  • setting the sector on an irreversible path to zero-emissions.

These objectives are underpinned by a paradigm shift towards further digitalisation and support to the current and future workforce. Meeting these core objectives will require an integrated approach and a basket of measures incorporating transport, environmental, digital, energy and fiscal policies, backed up with financial incentives. The measures are categorised in 8 flagships and 35 actions. The measures are categorised in 8 flagships and 35 actions.

Modal shift

The EU action plan builds on the EU Green Deal objective to set out decisive action to shift a substantial part of the freight transport to sustainable and less congested transport modes. Inland waterway transport and short-sea shipping volumes should increase by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050. INE is pleased to see the Commission takes the angle of multi-modal logistics within and beyond urban areas in this respect. This will be fully addressed in the revision of the combined transport directive.


The Commission attaches special attention to fit-for-future infrastructure to optimise navigation, which INE has recommended with its concept for achieving fit-for-future waterways. INE looks forward to the dedicated cooperation framework for inland waterway transport within the revision of the TEN-T Regulation, which will enable Member States to better coordinate cross-border actions and projects. In the revision of TEN-T, the future minimum requirements and the definition of Good Navigation Status will reflect the heterogeneous hydro-morphology and allow a certain degree of flexibility. With regard to the climate proofing guidance, we hope it will ensure an adequate dovetailing of climate and environmental objectives.

Digital transformation

Through the Connecting Europe Facility, the Commission will support measures that help to improve the digital information base of the actual status of the critical waterway locations. Next to the ongoing development of smart infrastructure for better infrastructure management, INE is happy to note that the Directive on River Information Services of 2005 will be finally revised by 2022 and that the Commission will facilitate the elaboration of a holistic view for the sector’s digitalisation and automation. INE refers to its Common Multi-modal Framework for Digitalisation since modal shift requires a multi-modal approach to digitalisation

Green energy

INE is pleased to see that the Commission considers inland ports as key hubs for sustainable mobility and industry, clean energy and circular economy development in a network approach. The transition to a zero-emission fleet is a necessary but tedious task. Next to the legislative measures to help support the business case, it is positive that the upcoming revision of the EU state aid regime will also cover inland waterway transport. Nevertheless, significant financial means from European instruments will be necessary to leverage industry investments and to address the current investment gap towards zero-emission.

Next week, the European Parliament will adopt in the transport committee its own-initiative report on inland waterway transport. The policy recommendations in its draft report are going in the same line of the Commission calling for strong ambition in EU waterway transport policy. We are pleased to see that it calls upon the Commission to mobilise sufficient internal resources to bring the implementation of the new Naiades action programme to a good end.

The implementation of the Naiades action programme is also supported by the PLATINA3 project. The EU-funded PLATINA3 project provides targeted coordination and support activities to promote inland waterway transport (IWT) in Europe and will make the bridge towards future research, innovation and implementation needs within IWT in Europe.

Naiades 3 action programme published

Transport by water