viadonau, economy

Greener, more modern, better. For viadonau, the Austrian Ministry for Climate Action, the European Strategy for the Danube Region and numerous companies on the Danube this must be the clear direction for sustainable inland navigation of tomorrow. On 15 May 2024, close to the viadonau headquarter in the "TechGate Vienna" and supported by the Port of Vienna the sixth edition of the viadonau Danube Business Talks focused on the Danube as a "road of opportunities" and provided an ideal forum for experts to speak plainly about its future.

Presenter at the podium with audience in the background

The sixth edition of the viadonau Danube Business Talks attracted around 120 participants, photo: © viadonau

From the European Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) to national goals and implementation plans, such as the action programme of the Austrian Ministry for Climate Action, common or complementary development goals have been defined and coordinated for many years to develop the waterway as a modern and environmentally friendly mode of transport. The main thrust is to promote the shift of transport from road to waterway, which is also to be sustainably modernised. The European Green Deal, which defines Europe's transport and environmental policy framework since 2020, serves as one of the most important "amplifiers" for political decision-making and the joint chances of success. With a clear strategic focus provided by programmes such as the "Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy" launched in 2020, the aim is to increase transport via inland and coastal shipping in Europe by 25 per cent by 2030.

Increasing future opportunities through modernisation and professionalisation

While the share of inland waterway transport in the modal split has hardly changed in recent years, expert Luca Farkas from the European Commission's Directorate-General for Transport and Mobility (DG MOVE) can report important progress within the framework of the European action plan for inland waterway transport NAIADES III. For example, the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) and the Horizon Europe programme are successfully driving forward the development and deployment of zero-emission vehicles and the promotion of alternative fuels. This concerns the harmonisation of standards for alternative fuels as well as the consistent implementation of corresponding infrastructure in the ports. In addition, special attention is also being paid to training, qualification criteria and the development of new expertise, e.g. in the areas of new propulsion systems and environmentally friendly ship operation. While the professionalisation and modernisation of inland navigation is being driven forward in this way, the continued harmonisation of Europe-wide waterway information services and regulation of intermodal transport geared towards inland shipping are also being addressed.

Green hotspots of Danube logistics

Peter Rojko from the Port of Vienna confirms that the ports, as stationary hubs of Danube logistics, also consistently implement sustainable greening such as the expansion of the port's photovoltaic supply, consistent switch to LED lighting and the use of electric vehicles. While cross-border projects such as the Horizon Europe project ReMuNet are committed to rapid agreement on alternative multimodal transport routes in the European transport network in the event of incidents, the Horizon Europe project MultiRELOAD is focussed on developing the most efficient multimodal logistics solutions possible. In addition, the "H2 meets H20" project is driving forward the consistent expansion of the hydrogen supply infrastructure on the Danube.

Thrust for the future – but with which fuel?

HVO, methanol or hydrogen? Civil engineer for ship technology Richard Anzböck reports on current developments in ship design optimisation, more efficient use of materials in shipbuilding and which fuels will be the most economical and at the same time the most environmentally friendly for shipping in the future: the widely used LNG or methanol, both of which causing up to 25% less CO2 emissions compared to diesel? Hydrogen, which is emission-free but energy-intensive to produce? Or the hydrotreated vegetable oil HVO100, which can be used in diesel engines and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90 %? In addition to summarising the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative, the expert's concrete operating examples suggest a particularly large future potential for the already widely used liquefied natural gas LNG as well as for the much-discussed hydrogen. Once again, the question of an internationally regulated infrastructure supply is proving to be a key factor in the success of environmentally and climate-friendly fuels.

Reliability creates competitiveness

Razvan Banica, Sales Manager at Transport Trade Services (TTS) Romania, knows how important high-quality maintenance of the waterway is. Although the Romanian fleet of cargo ships is growing steadily, low water levels of just over two metres can have serious consequences for planning and transport efficiency. When sailing for example in the Zimnicea Giurgiu section with a convoy of nine cargo ships the smaller draught loaded and the resulting need for more frequent journeys could mean an additional journey of over 900 kilometres, additional fuel consumption of around 13,000 litres and an additional journey time of up to one week. Based on common trade interests and the European goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport network, the cooperation of all Danube countries is essential for the sustainable modernisation of infrastructure and ship technology.

Speaking of bottlenecks, one particularly sensitive hotspot in recent years – the German section of the Danube between Straubing and Vilshofen – has been the subject of intensive hydraulic engineering work in recent years. The hydraulic engineering infrastructure company WIGES is dedicated not only to waterway development but also to improving flood protection. According to WIGES planning expert Markus Fischer, in addition to improved flood protection the most important goal is to guarantee a water depth of at least 2.5 metres on at least 200 days a year. The fairway will be deepened over a length of 70 kilometres and ecologically important structures such as side arms and islands will be restored or newly created.

Development all along the line

Carmen Manescu and Romeo Soare from the Romanian National Company for the Management of Inland Waterways (ACN) and the Romanian Waterways Administration (AFDJ) report on renovations and improvements at the locks of Cernavoda, Agigea, Ovidiu and Navodari and at the berths at the ports of Basarabi and Medgidia, as well as maintenance activities on the common Bulgarian-Romanian section of the Danube. While the expansion and further development of the information infrastructure and surveying equipment will continue in projects such as the Romanian-Bulgarian Interreg project DISMAR – Danube Integrated System for MARking, the international, EU co-financed FAIRway Danube II project, coordinated by viadonau, will also set strong accents on the Danube in the coming years. With a total budget of EUR 70 million – of which EUR 47 million is EU funding through the Connecting Europe Facility – remotely monitored buoys will be procured, 19 water level measuring points modernised, moorings in Aschach, Krems, Vienna and on the Danube-Black Sea Canal upgraded and the international waterway monitoring system WAMOS further enhanced.

Transport transition as an opportunity for renewal

For the Ukrainian Danube shipping company UDSC, the shift towards waterway transport is tantamount to a renaissance. Ukraine's waterway infrastructure has not been modernised since the end of the Soviet era and most of the fleet dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. According to Olha Tsybulska from UDSC this need to catch up is already adressed together with shipbuilding companies such as Österreichische Schiffswerften AG (ÖSWAG). The expert sees particularly high transport potential on the Danube in grain exports, which has always been one of the most attractive groups of goods for inland waterway transport. The company can currently offer 14 barge convoys for grain transport from Serbia and Hungary to Constanța with a loading capacity of up to 130,000 tonnes per month, but the fleet and capacities can still be significantly expanded in line with demand. For the expert it is crucial now to offer incentives as part of a diverse range of services that clearly emphasise the advantages of inland shipping and the switch to it.

Danube – the bond that connects us

From the comprehensive upgrading of mooring places including improvements to the energy supply – for which pioneering work was carried out at the "Industrie Port" Würzburg with the first shore power supplied mooring place for passenger ships in Germany in 2005 as Christoph Kreuzinger from Würzburger Versorgungs- und Verkehrs-GmbH WVV pointed out – to the new large-scale modernisation project FAIRway Danube II, the sixth Danube Business Talks once again clearly pointed out for Gert-Jan Muilerman, viadonau department head and expert for international projects, what the Danube must be about: close cooperation. The joint project work under the umbrella of the European Danube Region Strategy as well as the agreement and implementation of common standards for the digitalisation of the waterway and the professionalisation and further training of shipping personnel create the long-term perspective and framework conditions on the river that inland navigation needs as a competitive transport option in the course of the European transport transition towards sustainable solutions.

Download the speakers' presentations (PDF)

Turi Fiorito – EFIP, European Federation of Inland Ports

"Setting the Course to Green Inland Navigation"
Christoph Kreuzinger, WVV – Shore Power Systems
Peter Rojko, Port of Vienna
Richard Anzböck – Green Vessels - Concepts for Inland Navigation

"Setting the Course to a good Navigation Status"
Luca Farkas, DG MOVE
Razvan Banica, TTS – Fairway Infrastructure - backbone for sustainable shipping solutions
Michaela Pichler, RWA – Danube navigation: backbone of RWA logistics
Carmen Manescu, ACN / Romeo Soare, AFDJ – Waterway infrastructure achievements in Romania
Markus Fischer, WIGES – Development waterway Straubing-Vilshofen


DAVID forms to facilitate ships border control through the Danube countries (YouTube-Video)
(Danube Region Strategy, EUSDR)

EUSDR – Let's work together for prosperity in the Danube Region! (YouTube-Video)
(Danube Region Strategy, EUSDR)

The revamped Funding & Tenders Portal: what's new? (YouTube-Video)
(EU Science & Innovation)

Improving waterway & inland navigation - Good practices in the Danube Region (Video presentation, YouTube-Video)

Photo gallery of the Danube Business Talks 2024