Inland Waterway Transport

Inland waterway transport plays an important role for the transport of goods in Europe. More than 37 000 kilometres of waterways connect hundreds of cities and industrial regions. Some 20 out of 27 Member States have inland waterways, 12 of which have an interconnected waterway networks. The potential for increasing the modal share of inland waterway transport is, however, significant. Compared to other modes of transport which are often confronted with congestion and capacity problems, inland waterway transport is characterized by its reliability, its low environmental impact and its major capacity for increased exploitation. The European Commission aims to promote and strengthen the competitive position of the inland waterway transport in the transport system, and to facilitate its integration into the intermodal logistic chain.

Inland waterway transport is a competitive alternative to road and rail transport. In particular; it offers an environment friendly alternative in terms of both energy consumption and noise and gas emissions. Its energy consumption per km/ton of transported goods is approximately 17% of that of road transport and 50% of rail transport. Its noise and gaseous emissions are modest. In addition, inland waterway transport ensures a high degree of safety, in particular when it comes to the transportation of dangerous goods. Finally it contributes to the decongestion of the overloaded road network in densely populated regions.

According to recent studies, the total external costs of inland navigation (in terms of accidents, congestion, noise emissions, air pollution and other environmental impacts) are seven times lower than those of road transport.

Inland Waterway Projects


The main objective of our Inland Waterway projects is to support the regions in the implementation of inland waterway projects. With a focus on transport using inland waterways, CEC brings together all the relevant actors in the transport trade and inland waterway sector in a multi-disciplinary knowledge network. Most members already play an active role in trade, transport, and inland waterways in their countries, thus the contribution of the project to to the use of inland waterways in transport in specific regions will be maximized.

These objectives are achieved by:

Providing technical, organizational and financial support for targeted actions: Together with the business leaders and policy makers, CEC identifies the necessary actions, brings together the required business leaders and resources, and develops the necessary solutions, knowledge and tools. Key experts and stakeholders elaborate technical proposals for business and policy actions in the five action areas.

Building on strong interrelations with existing groups, projects and initiatives: The added value of CEC is the creation of synergies at the European level through networking and knowledge exchange. Through the multi-disciplinary composition of this proejct, CEC is a flexible platform that can react to emerging business and policy needs in the field of using inland waterways in biomass transport.

Fast Facts

Inland waterway transport is the perfect mode for all kind of goods because it is above all reliable, operates just in time and has a lot of free capacity. Success stories from all over Europe prove the advantages of transporting goods on Europe’s integrated network of rivers and canals.

The European Union has committed itself to pursue the goal of shifting transport to less energy-intensive, cleaner and safer transport modes. Inland waterway transport is an obvious choice to play a more prominent role in reaching these targets. Concrete measures are needed to fully exploit the market potential of inland navigation and to make its use more attractive. Given that inland navigation is often a cross-border transport mode, action at both national and Community level is required.

Thus the European Commission adopted an action programme on the promotion of inland waterway transport called NAIADES (Navigation and Inland Waterway Action and Development in Europe). The programme includes recommendations for action to be taken between 2006 and 2013 by the European Community, its Member States and other parties concerned. The implementation of the programme shall be carried out in close co-operation with national and regional authorities, River Commissions, as well as the European inland waterway transport sector.

Alongside NAIADES, targeted initiatives are launched on the global level to assist inland waterway transport in unfolding its full potential and to provide favorable framework conditions for this particular mode of transport. These initiatives comprise of legal measures, in-depth scientific studies and development projects.

Inland Navigation Project 

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BioTrade project

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Submit Initiative/Project

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Submit TSF

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