The case for more inland waterway transport
Moving towards climate neutrality, going through a digital transformation and increasing resilience results in the transition of major industrial sectors. The European Green Deal is guiding the agricultural, energy, chemical, steel and construction sector through a sustainable and circular transformation. The big volumes involved are well suited for inland shipping.
Construction materials constitute the largest cargo flow in cities, building and demolition represent one third of EU waste generation. To enable seamless and sustainable transport for new economies, multimodality has to become the default option.
Further integration of waterways with other modes should not only be pursued for international and inter-regional flows, but also in urban environments where most of the negative externalities are generated. Next to sustainable mobility of persons in cities, we need sustainable movement of freight and proactive urban planning. Inland ports are multimodal hubs and enablers of green logistics.
The Inland Navigation Market Observatory has made an assessment of new market opportunities for inland shipping and sheds light on new types of logistics, vessels and new areas of operation which will be required to capture those markets. Promising markets are: urban passenger and freight transport, new cargo flows generated by the circular economy and transport of renewable energies and components for their generation.
The revised Commission proposal is scheduled for the second quarter of 2023.
Priorities for INE
It is positive to see that the Commission in its preparatory works is extending the scope from combined transport (volumes transported in the same loading unit) to cover all multimodal transport (volumes shipped by different transport modes) that yields positive externalities. The Commission also plans to abandon the rather arbitrary distance parameter which is almost impossible to apply to inland waterway transport. In addition, INE would like to see the following in the revision:
- Externality calculation: INE advocates not to consider only CO2 savings, but also air pollution, noise, accidents, congestion, land take should be taken into account when calculating externalities. INE advises against a simple calculator which would distort real-life outcome. INE advocates a trustworthy tool built and managed by the Commission.
- Support measures: Given the diversity between Member States, INE favours an open list of different support measures from which Member states can choose to compose a toolbox that is customised to specific needs in order to boost multimodal transport. INE would welcome that the proposed support measures are covered by the general block exemption regulation (GBER), so Member States can swiftly apply such state aid as an instrument.
- Terminals: The Commission should ensure in practice that terminals financed with public money do not compete with existing terminals with public and non-discriminatory access. INE also asks to take into account the fragmentation of flows and restricted space in urban areas which require smaller and/or time-sharing terminals.