The Federal River Maintenance Authority (Bundesstrombauamts) was established in 1928 by the Austrian government. Renamed the Federal Inland Waterways Authority (Wasserstraßendirektion) in 1985, its responsibilities included the administration, maintenance and regulation of the Danube, along with the management of the Danube Flood Control Agency (DHK) by means of preventive safety measures. Hence, the fundamental competences of flood control and waterway management in the Austrian Danube Region were combined.
In 1992, the individual tasks of the Federal Inland Waterways Authority were transferred to the “Österreichische Donau-Betriebs-AG“ (Austrian Danube Operations) with the intention of privatising the organisation. Following a reorganisation of ministerial responsibilities in 2000, all federal responsibilities for navigation and waterways in Austria were again redistributed. As a result of this restructuring, the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT) was able to combine flood protection agendas, environmental concerns and economic development interests in the Danube region.
BMVIT established viadonau as a limited company on 1st January 2005 with the aim of giving responsibility for all the core competences of waterway management and supervision of locks to one establishment (as part of this reorganisation, the Maritime Police, answering directly to the ministry, henceforth became known as the Supreme Shipping Authority). viadonau was formed by the merger of the following organisations: “via donau – Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH für Telematik und Donauschifffahrt” (via-donau – Development Company for Telematics and Navigation on the Danube), “Österreichische Donau-Betriebs-AG“ and its subsidiary “Österreichische DONAU-Technik GmbH” (Austrian Danube Technology).
With the concentration of a multitude of tasks within the newly created company, the ministry was able to achieve its objective of creating customised organisational structures and synergy potential in the Danube region which could be more effectively utilised. Following the ratification of the new Federal Waterways Act (BGBl. I no. 177/2004) on 31st December 2004, regulating the legal basis of all viadonau’s activities, the company began operating at the beginning of 2005.
viadonau currently looks after approximately 300 kilometres of flood control dams on the Danube, March and Thaya, ensures the safe and efficient traffic management of nine locks on the Danube and is responsible for the upkeep of 500 kilometres of towpaths and 250 kilometres of cycle paths. After the devastating floods of March 2006, almost 68 kilometres of flood defences along the rivers March and Thaya were renovated and extended. This work was completed in 2013, thereby ensuring safety at the highest technical level for around 18,000 people.
viadonau leads the way in the environmentally responsible development and advancement of the Danube waterway, cooperating in both national and international projects. To this end, the company is engaged in stimulating interests, ideas and impulses from politics, business, science and environmental organisations, in order to bring together and work with all the key players on the Danube, using an integrative approach to find practical solutions.
viadonau’s experts carry out valuable pioneering work, especially in the field of ecological river engineering. As part of the riverbank renaturalisation project at Bad Deutsch-Altenburg between 2012 and 2014, the environment, inland waterways and flood protection all benefited equally from the large scale river engineering measures carried out under scientific supervision.
European integration has also opened up new opportunities and prospects for the development of the Danube waterway. Since 2011 viadonau has been involved in the European Danube Region Strategy (EUSDR), providing an effective interface for the National Action Programme for the Danube.
The company is committed to the unification of flood control at national level, environmental and economic interests, as well as coordination with the waterway authorities of other countries along the Danube. Consistently high levels of performance and service standards are thereby ensured throughout the whole of the Danube region. viadonau is a driving force in this new phase of development of the most international waterway in the world.
A view back into the past
The research project The History of Austria‘s Federal Inland Waterway Administration (1918-1955) helps the company to learn about its history.