In a world seeking innovative solutions for the evolving challenges of climate change and sustainability, the waterborne transport sector plays an important role. This was evidently clear during the Waterborne Days conference held in Brussels on 26-27 September 2023, which congregated over 300 participants from various segments of the European waterborne transport sector.
The Waterborne Days conference showcased the remarkable strength of the European waterborne community. It provided a comprehensive overview of the developments in the waterborne transport sector and advanced discussions on the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) of the sector. The gathering marked a collaborative endeavour with multiple stakeholders, focusing on propelling the sector towards a green and digital transition.
The European IWT Platform took active part at the conference. Janeta Toma, Senior Policy Officer, contributed to discussions on the panel exploring the obstacles and enablers for the market uptake of zero-emission technologies in the waterborne transport sector. In this context, the emphasis was on the pivotal role of inland shipowners and operators and the challenges they encounter while transitioning to these technologies. For the sector to progress, well-established, mature, and cost-effective solutions are imperative. There’s a strong need to establish a business case for investment in these technologies, and achieving a critical mass in their deployment is paramount.
Nik Delmeire, the Coordinator of the European Inland Waterway Transport Platform, lent his expertise in the session, “How can R&I facilitate a modal shift to Inland Waterways and maximise their potential?” This discussion addressed the crucial question of utilizing research and innovation to foster a shift to inland waterways, thereby unleashing their immense potential.
Moreover, Theresia Hacksteiner, Secretary General of EBU, took part in the special on invitation session “Towards a Resilient and Competitive Waterborne Transport Sector”.
The conference’s thematic debates and collaborative discussions underscored the importance of a unified commitment to green and digital transformation. Key figures including Mrs. Rosalinde van der Vlies, Director, Clean Planet, DG RTD – European Commission, and Eero Lehtovaara, Chair of the Board of Directors, Waterborne TP, emphasized the European Union’s objective to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. They highlighted the paramount task of decarbonizing the waterborne transport sector as part of this objective, signifying the sector’s complexity and the indispensable role of continual technological advancements.
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