press release, viadonau

With a total budget of around 70 million euros, the new EU co-financed project flagship FAIRway Danube II is setting sail. The most important mission objectives for the coming years on the Danube: modern marking of the waterway, upgrading of gauging stations, upgrading of the survey fleets and the expansion of the transnational waterway monitoring system WAMOS. The official project launch took place on 29 November in Vienna's TechGate – organised by viadonau – with high-ranking representatives from the EU Commission, the Austrian Ministry for Climate Action, international organisations, industry and the WWF.

FAIRway Danube II Logo

Photo: © viadonau/Johannes Zinner

Auditorium with audience

Photo: © viadonau/Johannes Zinner

With continuing successes in modernising the waterway, ambitious projects within the framework of European cooperation have ensured for many years that the path to the future on the Danube is brightly lit. One project with a particularly lasting impact was the EU co-financed FAIRway Danube project, which started in 2015 and was completed in 2021. Coordinated by viadonau and under the umbrella of the EU Danube Strategy FAIRway Danube took the further development of the Danube to a new level and started the first implementation phase of the "Fairway Rehabilitation and Maintenance Master Plan for the Danube and its navigable tributaries". This included expanding the service fleet on the middle and lower Danube by nine vessels and creating a highly regarded blueprint for lock modernisation with a feasibility study on the renovation of the Slovakian Gabčíkovo lock. From 2020 the follow-up projects "FAIRway Works! in the Rhine-Danube Corridor" and "Preparing FAIRway 2 works in the Rhine Danube Corridor" built the bridge to the next major development mission "FAIRway Danube II" with the refurbishment of the Serbian lock Iron Gate II and upgrades of mooring places in Austria.

With a total budget of EUR 70 million – including EUR 47 million in EU funding from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) – 183 remotely monitored buoys are being procured on the Danube as part of FAIRway Danube II, 19 gauging stations are being modernised, moorings in Aschach, Krems, Vienna and on the Danube-Black Sea Canal are being upgraded and the transnational waterway monitoring system WAMOS is being expanded. In addition, the so-called "flexible infrastructure" as an innovative new take on an old idea for the targeted, localised influencing of fairway conditions will be tested. These tests with a barge prepared for this purpose on the danube east of Vienna will provide important preliminary findings for implementation in the countries of the middle and lower Danube in autumn 2024.

Just like the objectives of FAIRway Danube II, its stakeholders and interest groups are also broadly based. The project kick-off in Vienna therefore also served to discuss challenges, key milestones and expectations as part of project presentations, a panel discussion and a visit to the section of the Danube where the use of flexible infrastructure is to be trialled. Joined by the EU Coordinator for the Rhine-Danube Core Network Corridor, Inés Ayala Sender, Alain Baron (EU Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, DG MOVE), Euripides Sakellariou (European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency, CINEA), Vera Hofbauer (Transport Section, BMK), Birgit Vogel (International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, ICPDR), Manfred Seitz (Danube Commission), Andreas Beckmann (WWF Central and Eastern Europe) together with representatives from industry and shipping set the sails of the new ship FAIRway Danube II for the next stage of modernisation on the Danube waterway.

"One of our most important missions in the Ministry for Climate Action is to offer a real sustainable transport alternative with the Danube waterway. The main requirement for this is its best possible usability. I am therefore all the more pleased that FAIRway Danube II is now continuing the success story of its predecessor – a Europe-wide flagship project in terms of improving the quality of the waterway – with great international commitment", explains Vera Hofbauer, head of the transport section in the Austrian Ministry for Climate Action.

viadonau Managing Director Hans-Peter Hasenbichler associates the start of the project with great anticipation and a thirst for action as well: "With FAIRway Danube, we were able to significantly increase the speed of the modernisation engine on the Danube. With this new major project, we are now shifting into the next gear. What is particularly pleasing is that we can build on the successes of the predecessor and that we are once again tackling these goals with a powerful international project partnership. We know from the experience of recent years: What we achieve together lasts."