The fight against climate change is a challenge for the passenger and freight transport sector, even as the need for mobility continues to grow. Renew Europe considers that freedom of movement and the growth of economic activities are not incompatible with demanding high protection of the environment. This is why, in its position paper, the Renew Europe group of the European Parliament proposes to shift European transport policy in favour of inland waterway transport, urging for effective measures to boost multimodality. The EU has a dense network of inland waterways but its infrastructure requires crucial updating (e.g. bridges, locks, and interoperable deployment of digital technologies across borders). Furthermore, the decarbonisation of this mode of transport, which is already an efficient and sustainable mode of transportation, should be ensured and facilitated. With the prospects for (semi-)automation and digitalization, we can indeed consider moving in time from the large, heavy and often polluting vessels to dynamic fleets of modular ships, allowing the maintenance of global supply chains while improving their sustainability.
Jose Ramon BAUZÀ DÍAZ (Ciudadanos, Spain), Renew Europe Coordinator in the parliamentarian committee of Transport and Tourism (TRAN) and co-editor of this position paper endorsed by Renew Europe, said: Inland navigation is very important for many EU countries, not only for freight but also for passenger transport and tourism. Knowing that Europe has the largest river cruise fleet, today we need to explore the potential of inland waterway cruise vessels and recreational boating, in order to boost growth, new job opportunities and enhanced tourism. Renew Europe advocates for a common European comprehensive plan to help the sector in its transitions towards a digital & sustainable future.
Caroline NAGTEGAAL (VVD, Netherlands), Renew Europe TRAN Vice-Coordinator and co-editor, added: As 75% of EU inland waterway traffic crosses borders, an efficient and resilient cross-border inland navigation system is crucial. This is important especially now as the COVID-19 crisis poses new challenges to the sector. Renew Europe fully supports the inland waterway sector in its efforts to invest in sustainable solutions and digitalisation, which helps to reduce road and urban congestion, creates jobs and contributes to a more sustainable transport system as a whole. The main challenge for this sector is to create a robust business case – especially for the self-employed, the family businesses and other SMEs – to make the necessary investments in clean and smart ships. Therefore, a wide range of financial tools are needed, in particular a dedicated European inland waterway fleet restructuring fund.