Postponed in the previous year the long-awaited Danube Business Talks were finally held in a digital way on 13 October 2021. Providing a diverse field of topics – from current data on inland waterway transport and logistics to optimizing cross-border administrative processes and the upgrading of waterway infrastructure as well as the recovery of passenger shipping – the popular conference platform organised by viadonau once again presented itself as the flagship event for Danube navigation. The motto on the Danube river: Overcoming the crisis with rebuilt power and positioning inland navigation as an environmentally friendly transport mode with great potential to tackle climate change.
During the biggest health crisis of the last 100 years especially the Danube waterway faced dark and light simultaneously. While tourism and passenger shipping dropped dramatically on the Danube due to the pandemic, cargo shipping was at the same time demonstrating distinctive qualities of resilience thus pointing out the enormous importance of the waterway as a crucial supply artery for essential goods. Now, since the pandemic is slowly backing down the task must be to support Danube navigation on its successful path into a climate-conscious future and to strengthen modernization of the Danube waterway. With substantial measures like upgrading of berths and state-of-the-art shore power supply for mooring ships but also with logistical and technical innovations to strengthen the Danube as part of Europe’s multimodal transport network viadonau together with inland navigation operators, entrepreneurs from the Danube region and experts from the fields of policy-making, traffic and logistics took an extensive look into the future of Danube navigation, for which the Danube Business Talks once again provided an ideal platform.
The State Secretary at the Austrian Ministry of Climate Action, Magnus Brunner, confirmed the enormous impact of the corona virus pandemic on the Danube waterway even though the cargo shipping sector showed great resilience against the crisis: „Thankfully we were able to continuously maintain important supply chains on the Danube especially regarding agricultural and industrial products. Now we have to focus on tackling the climate crisis also in the field of Danube navigation. Therefore, great efforts by every stakeholder are needed to set up the right path towards greening inland navigation. Together with viadonau, one of the most important goals is therefore to establish low-emission and energy-efficient ship technology through new funding programms.“
viadonau’s managing director, Hans-Peter Hasenbichler, pointed out the major efforts to ensure appropriate usability of the Danube waterway during the pandemic. ’’From the start of the crisis it was very clear for us that we had to ensure the continuous functionality of our services for the users of the Danube waterway. A success we achieved together with federal institutions and partners. But the next tasks are already waiting to be accomplished like simplifying cross-border administrative procedures as well as the further digitalization of the Danube waterway. “
After the tremendous decline of passenger shipping, experts now have a brighter view of the future. The number of tourists will very likely rise again to pre-crisis level in the seasons 2022 and 2023. Austria scores above all as a safe travel destination, and at the same time Danube journeys are increasingly in demand from the domestic tourism sector.
The experts agree: The Danube waterway carries great potential to support measures against the climate crisis and to lead the European Commission’s Green Deal to success. With an increased modal shift towards inland navigation carbon emissions could be avoided to a significant extent. viadonau is specifically focusing on these positive effects of an increasing use of inland navigation as an effective transport option and ensures the best possible conditions for sustainable cargo shipping on the Danube waterway. To support improvements of waterway infrastructure along the entire Danube river viadonau takes a leading role in international projects – for an integrated maintenance of the entire river and a competitive transport mode in the 21st century.
The presentations of the speakers can be downloaded here.