On 14 April 2021, the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) of the European Parliament met to discuss the EP own-initiative report on Inland Waterway Transport (IWT): ‘Towards future-proof IWT in Europe’. Deadline for tabling amendments on the draft report was set to 28 April 2021.
The person standing behind these developments is the Dutch MEP, Caroline Nagtegaal (Renew Europe) whose work for the IWT sector is very much appreciated. She has been appointed as rapporteur for the report. Worth highlighting is also the earlier Renew Europe’s position paper on a Strategic Agenda for future-proof Inland Waterway Transport in Europe that was adopted in autumn 2020. It made the discussion wide open and loud, advocating support for inland navigation in its ongoing sustainable transition and digital transformation. The EU can achieve much needed modal shift and move a substantial part of transport from road to water, while reducing GHG emissions, however first a proper financing at the European level is necessary.
What has been discussed?
To start with, MEP Caroline Nagtegaal emphasised that IWT sector is of the utmost importance to Europe with a potential of increasing its modal share. Green and digital future is within our reach but we need to first strengthen the sector’s competitiveness and its financing e.g. by creating IWT-dedicated fund that is easily accessible for the system users.
We could listen to various opinions coming from the honourable members of the EPP, S&D, Greens/EFA, ECR and the Left Parties. There was a general agreement that IWT sector needs a collective push in terms of larger investments for infrastructure and capacity building, better maintenance and updated systems to offer more effective services. Connectivity and interoperability of various transport modes and ports are also vital to achieve a true circular economy for the benefit of all.
We could hear calls to emphasise the human factor as people are and will be at the heart of IWT sector’s transition. Hence, their education and professional training, employment conditions, social security, together with ensuring the overall safety on board, is crucial. Other comments that were raised referred to greening and use of alternative fuels, sector’s needed technological neutrality and moving towards low- and zero-carbon solutions. IWT is already the most CO2 efficient form of transport, however it has still not reached its full potential. Rapporteur was also asked to elaborate more on the details of IWT-dedicated EU fund.
At the end of the discussion, Magda Kopczyńska, Director at DG MOVE of European Commission, delivered the final remarks. She acknowledged that IWT sector must be supported in its efforts to modernise, to become greener and more digital. To this end, EU-coordinated actions aim at improving sector’s integration in the intermodal chain of EU freight transport networks. DG MOVE is currently working on the NAIADES III Action Plan, which should reflect all the points raised up earlier by the honourable MEPs.
Overall, the draft report is an excellent starting point for future debate and negotiations.
Rapporteur MEP Nagtegaal summarised that several important points were touched upon during the meeting, including the issues of infrastructure, funding IWT sector, and education/labour of its workforce. At the same time, a realistic and pragmatic view has to be maintained about what is currently available and affordable for the sector, and how the future transition can be shaped in a way that the sector doesn’t lose its competitiveness.
What is needed are the right tools and policies to – quoting Magda Kopczyńska, Director at DG MOVE of European Commission – “push for greening but not to push the sector out of market”!
Afterwards, on 27 April 2021, the European Parliament met in a plenary session. Rapporteur MEP Nagtegaal said: “This own-initiative report calls on the Commission to put measures on the table to make maritime transport more sustainable and efficient. In particular, Renew Europe wants to see a large-scale development of the use of low- and zero-emission alternative fuels. Zero-emission shipping remains our final destination, but since no technologically mature zero-emission fuel is market ready yet for maritime transport, Renew Europe made efforts to include liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a transition fuel solution. LNG is a more sustainable, affordable and widely available alternative to dirty heavy fuel oil. Low emission alternative fuels like LNG can bridge the gap on the route to fossil fuel free maritime transport and lots of investments have already been made by the sector. I am therefore glad that this is acknowledged in the report”.
Image source: Renew Europe Group official website, the European Parliament