Now more than ever. Especially in tough economic times, it is worthwhile to take a closer look at the Danube. Whether through the development of new markets, the development of information technologies or innovative transportation and logistics solutions - the Danube waterway offers many opportunities for the one of the most dynamic economic regions in Europe.Yet, the Danube is also a natural mode of transport that relies to a far greater extent on external conditions than rail or road. Following the record heat of 2015 and an extended low water period, one of the most pressing issues of the Danube Business Talks 2016 organized by viadonau, was see to it that the long term economic viability and reliability of the waterway could be ensured.

J. Johannes Wenkenbach (PORR AG) was one of the keynote speakers of the Danube Business Talks. In Linz, he highlighted the importance of waterways from the perspective of the construction industry. Photo credits: viadonau

In addition to latest news on current issues on the future of transport axis Danube, the 150 delegates from 12 countries found at Danube Business Talks a communication platform with fresh ideas, modern solutions and fascinating insights from national and international experts. And at the core of the talks: strategies for an ever more efficient and yet always safer use of the Danube waterway from the perspective of waterway management, shipping, river engineering, infrastructure, transport and logistics.

Fostering strengths and integrating usefully into the European transport network
Inland navigation is efficient and versatile. When it comes to high loading capacities, it is top of its class. Yet, the outstanding transport potential of inland navigation is rarely fully exploited. Transport companies and skippers agree: Highly fluctuating fairway conditions, but especially shallow waters often drive to delicate compromise when it comes to loading volumes. Thus, in order for the waterway to play its strengths optimally, a responsible and appropriate maintenance and a modern and seamless monitoring is required. The National Action Programme Danube of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport Innovation and Technology (bmvit) has made it a priority to increasingly promote the holistic development of the waterway in accordance with the goals set by the European Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR). Economic, environmental and safety interests are thereby connected in a solution-oriented manner in order to strengthen the prospects for the sustainable use of the Danube. Ursula Zechner, Head of Section IV Transport at the bmvit, explained in her opening address at the Danube Business Talks, that in order to achieve the most reliable availability of the waterway, proactive and precise measures are of utmost importance: in an exchange with conference participants, the traffic expert put it in a nutshell:"2015 has demonstrated that we must more than ever, think of the Danube waterway in terms of sections. By examinining even more closely where and in which areas development steps are necessary, we can increase the safety of use of the Danube on the long run, thus strengthening incentives for its increased inclusion in multimodal transport chains. "

Representatives from the sector also voiced again their demands for an even tighter network of transport modes to make optimal use of the advantages of each system. This view was also expressed by Johannes Hödlmayer, entrepreneur and Chairman of Transport and Logistics Division of the Upper Austria Economic Chamber, who emphasised that only an economically viable integration of all modes of transport could bring benefits for the Danube.

Finding building blocks of stability
"Build on the Danube Corridor" - the motto of this year's edition of the Danube Business Talks was also the message of the Conference. And the future of the Danube can only be built on a solid foundation. This clear message was conveyed by viadonau CEO Hans-Peter Hasenbichler: "Efficient waterway management and traffic management are only a few of the important building blocks that we need to ensure a stable development along the entire waterway. Tailor-made as much as practicable services for all waterway users, the effective use of funding but also innovative information platforms for logistics, such as for instance the brand new Danube Logistics Portal, are essential prerequisites for lasting future perspectives on the Danube. " A responsible development towards high standards can therefore not end at national borders .

On the waterway like on rails
The development of the Danube as a reliable transport route is a joint project that goes beyond borders. With the approval in 2014 of the Master Plan for the joint maintenance of the Danube, the Danube countries agreed to develop harmonized standards for waterway infrastructure - a milestone on the path to higher transport safety along the entire Danube. Marc Vanderhaegen , expert on ports and inland waterways at DG-MOVE of the European Commission, explained that "with the Master Plan, we have set things in motion in one of the key development areas of the European transport network and thus are creating new opportunities for the pan-European transport industry". The Master Plan will not only increase the availability of information on the waterway, it will also provide valuable current data in order to take even more targeted measures on waterway management along the entire Danube.

New Markets- optimizing the strengths of Danube navigation
Where does the Danube flex its muscles? Although inland vessels are known for carrying high volumes, some groups of goods are even more suitable for transport on waterways. One promising area of ​​focus for IWT in Austria is certainly recycled products. In the Upper Austrian Ennshafen Port alone, between 40000-50000 tons of recycled products are handled on average annually. Especially with high and heavy and bulky commodity groups, the competitive edge of IWT is also synonym with relieving congested roads. Werner Auer, Managing Director of Ennshafen Port, confirmed that with its exceptional capacities, the Danube waterway can make a significant contribution to achieving the climate objectives of Austria - a 60 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions until 2050. A precondition for this is, however, an even closer infrastructure connection between ports and industrial plants but also with global markets. The future of the Danube waterway is mainly a question of common perspectives.

For the future of the Danube- Let's network!
Looking for new business opportunities and to develop new ideas? You need a good chat - and preferably face to face. And the high interest in current Danube issues was also felt with the high delegate rate at the so-called Danube Business Dating, the business to business pillar of Danube Business Talks. In 20-minute Elevator Pitch-style meetings, the participants made ​​new business contacts, presented their portfolio or used the opportunity to find out if they can add Danube water to their business mix. While the innovative communication platform Danube Business Talks took the participants to Linz this time, the offer is always more innovative for a lively exchange of ideas, expertise from different perspectives and experiences, and again, the Talks were hailed a great success. In addition to burning questions about the future of the Danube in the European transport network and new market opportunities, viadonau Managing Director summarized that the event highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the clear signals that the full potential of the Danube as a competitive transport route can only be unveiled with a joint approach: "We still have a lot of work to do. But it is also in difficult times that the robustness of a transport system can be proven. The watchword must therefore be: develop together according to clearly defined standards and exploit the strengths of the Danube where it pays off most not only as an economic, but also as an ecological asset for the future", so Hasenbichler.

Danube navigation now - Everything you need to know is packed in the new Annual Report of viadonau, released just in time for the Danube Business Talks. Check out the most important key facts and figures on Danube navigation in Austria at a glance - order now or download here:

Click here to access the Danube Business Talks 2016 photo gallery and here to share your feedback on the Conference with us!