On 7 July the Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament came together for its constituent meeting. The European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP) welcomes MEPs to the new Transport Committee and congratulates the chair and vice chairs on their election. EFIP hopes that deputies will offer their support for the key issues that concern inland ports:
As multi-modal hubs, inland ports bring together inland waterway transport, rail and road as well as the industries that settle in ports to benefit from the multitude of convenient transport options. Ports serve as key nodes of and gateways to the European transport network.
In order to effectively play this role, ports depend on good infrastructure. EFIP therefore supports the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network policy (TEN-T) and welcomes its strong focus on multi-modality. Inland ports are an active part of the new TEN-T corridors and a number of ports are developing projects in the framework of this policy.
Besides the development of infrastructure, safeguarding the navigability of Europe’s waterways through good maintenance and regular dredging operations is absolutely key. The current unwillingness of a number of member states to honour their commitments in this respect damages the efficiency and reliability of transport on the affected waterways. In this context it is important to anchor the transport function of the European waterways whilst finding a good balance with the other functions and users of the rivers and canals.
Inland ports help to bundle cargo flows and shift them onto the sustainable modes of transport inland waterway and rail. This is both efficient and green. The European Commission’s Transport White Paper sets the goal to shift long distance freight flows from road to rail and inland waterways with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions from transport. EFIP hopes that the new Transport Committee will remain committed to this target.
In this context, combined transport, i.e. transport combining rail, inland waterway or maritime services with last mile road delivery, deserves support. Besides the co-funding for the development of multi-modal infrastructure and sustainable freight services which is foreseen through the Connecting Europe Facility, the upcoming revision of the combined transport directive will offer Parliament the possibility to further strengthen this form of transport.
Inland ports also offer efficient and innovative solutions for freight transport within cities. This can be an interesting alternative for cities suffering from congestion and can contribute to achieving the EU’s target of CO2 free city logistics by 2030. Urban freight distribution by water requires reliable political support, including safeguarding strategic surfaces, which are often sought after for the development of residential areas, for logistic purposes. Integrating transport by water in urban mobility plans can be a useful tool in this respect.
It is important for inland waterway transport not to lose its leading position in terms of overall environmental performance. EFIP therefore supports policies aimed at reducing emissions from inland waterway transport. At the same time, the relatively bleak economic situation of the sector should be taken into account. Stricter emission standards therefore need to be accompanied by meaningful financial support measures, in particular for the retro-fitting of the existing fleet.
One of the key opportunities of the future lies in harnessing information technology to render logistics more efficient. In this context, it would be useful to see to what extent River Information Services (RIS) can be developed into an instrument that makes relevant information available to transport logistics. Simplified administrative and customs procedures, such as a single transport document could further enhance the integration of inland waterway transport into the logistics chain.
Investment decisions and political choices need to be founded on accurate, recent information. The current availability of statistics on the European inland port sector is very poor. An EU level monitoring system which offers comparable and objective data on inland ports would be helpful in guiding business and political decisions.
The Naiades II Communication, which was published in September 2014, mentions a variety of measures (some of which are addressed above) that the European Commission plans to see implemented in the coming years in order to strengthen inland waterway transport. EFIP welcomes the Commission’s commitment to work on this issue and will support the European institutions in further defining and targeting the envisaged measures to make them operational for inland waterway transport.
EFIP Director Kathrin Obst said: “I look forward to working with the new Transport Committee and its Chairman Michael Cramer. I hope that the coming years will give us the opportunity to jointly tackle many of the issues that are of concern for inland ports so that the sector can fulfil its important role in making transport greener and more efficient.”