EU helps Ukraine develop inland waterways

This year, when Ukraine is fighting the pandemic in the attempt to remain unbroken, investments in inland waterway infrastructure as a powerful instrument of economic stimulation cause renewed interest, because policymakers begin to see the path of reforms.In the coming weeks, specialists in inland water transport and EU experts will share experience in implementation of reforms and other important information to help policymakers make the most effective decisions. We will also discuss other problems which affect the future development of inland water transport in Ukraine, from improved legislative and regulatory framework to provision of resources and market access.

Thank you for participation in this important discussion! At this time, when we all together are trying to overcome the crisis, we wish every one of you and your families to stay safe and healthy.

“Promoting Transportation Development of the Dnieper River” technical assistance project.

Interview with Edwin Lock, Head of “Promoting Transportation Development of the Dnieper River” technical assistance project group

Photo: Edwin Lock

— Why does Ukraine need a reform of inland water transport?

— Ukraine has an extensive network of inland waterways. The Dnieper is the largest and most important river in Ukraine, and it can be regarded as a national treasure of Ukraine. This river is used for freight and passenger transportation, but it also has many other important functions. Hydroelectric power plants generate electricity, the river also serves as a source of drinking water for many people and for agriculture, and of course, the river is used for recreational purposes: swimming, fishing and wind sports.

Considering the large number of users the river has, the most important aspects of inland water transport reforms include organization of public management of the river system (who is responsible for what), financing the maintenance of, and investments in, public infrastructure of inland water transport, such as, for example, navigable channels and locks. Another important purpose of reforms is to ensure that they strongly promote inland water transport and facilitate transloading of cargo shipments from road transport to inland water transport, because the latter is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly mode of transport.

First of all, these reforms must be reflected in the Inland Water Transport Law, which the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has been discussing for more than 10 years to date.

It is worth noting that the passage of the new Inland Water Transport Law is only the first step toward development of the inland water transport sector in Ukraine. After the Law is passed, the capability of many public institutions responsible for the management, operation and maintenance of inland water transport would have to be enhanced and modernized. The private sector would also have to make a contribution by developing products for inland water transport and opening new markets.

In addition, it is also strongly recommended to create an inland water transport platform for regular, structured discussions between representatives of the public and the private sectors in order to improve the operability of inland water transport and create a market monitoring system to control development of river transport.

Similar platforms are already successfully used in many EU member states. The beginning of this century became a turning point in development of inland water transport in Europe. Barriers which obstructed competition and free access to markets and tariffing systems were removed, and legislative framework for vessels and vessel crews was harmonized with the latest technological and social standards. The creation of CESNI, a unique European platform, can be considered an important step toward development of inland navigation in Europe. All countries using this mode of transport actively participate in it, allowing CESNI to facilitate sustainable development, provide access to new technologies and make sure that inland navigation is an active, competitive carrier fully integrated in European transport system.

Ukraine has the task of joining this process of sustainable development of inland water transport.

The step-by-step process on the way toward recognition at European level of inland water transport as a modern carrier was accompanied, and even guided, by close cooperation between the government and national and European representative industrial organizations at all levels of decision making: the European Commission and Parliament, river commissions, working groups, and a lot of projects concerning research, development and implementation of new technologies in inland water transport. Ukraine has the task of joining this process of sustainable development of inland water transport.

Another proposal features preparation of a plan of promoting development of inland water transport, aimed to promote the entire network of river transportation services in general and gain support from the Ukrainian society in developing inland water transport. This project will help Ukrainian public authorities prepare a plan of promoting development of inland water transport based on the EU’s best practices, and provide continuing support to the adoption of this plan in Ukraine.

Ukraine needs to reform inland water transport to be able to expand its economic and transport ties with the European Union and integrate Ukraine’s inland waterways into international transport corridors based on the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, which means that Ukrainian legislation would have to be harmonized with the EU legislation.


— What significance will the enhancement and development of inland waterways have for the entire transportation sector of Ukraine, and what major barriers obstruct development of inland water transport in Ukraine?

— The enhancement of river transport gives Ukraine an opportunity to utilize its potential and increase the volume of freight transportation via inland waterways, and also, offer a cost-saving alternative to road and rail transport. It will help reduce general transportation costs. Since these costs are included to the sale price of goods, it is an obvious fact that transportation must be organized in the most efficient way in order to minimize these costs.

As of today, only an insignificant portion of commodities is transported by rivers in Ukraine. These commodities include grain, metals, certain petroleum products and building materials (sand and gravel). Other cargoes can also be transported by inland waterways, such as containers and motor vehicles (cars, trucks, agricultural machinery), because these goods are transported by rivers in many EU member states.

Today’s barriers obstructing development of inland water transport include uncertainty in legislative and regulatory system and absence of investments by outside manufacturers in transportation systems.

— Will development of inland water transport adversely affect the environment?

— Comparing to rail and road transport, river transport is the most environmentally friendly mode of transport when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. However, river transport does produce certain waste (domestic waste and bilge water), and some of this waste gets into rivers.

The biggest contaminators are enterprises dumping untreated cooling water and waste into rivers and the agricultural sector. In addition, a third of domestic wastewater not going through water treatment plants is also dumped into rivers.

It is worth noting that presently, only an insignificant number of vessels use inland waterways of Ukraine, and therefore, compelling ship owners to collect waste would hardly improve the quality of river water. On the other hand, obliging the private sector to take waste onshore or install treatment plants onboard vessels would increase operators’ expenses and make inland water transport more expensive. In addition, the government must ensure the availability of receptacles for waste and wastewater at river ports, which would also need substantial investments.

It is obvious that over time, when river transport will again be used adequately to transport cargoes and passengers, the management of ship waste collection would have to be put in order, both from legal standpoint (for example, by making it obligatory at legislative level and enforcing compliance) and at operational level (by creating sufficient capacity to collect waste at river ports and terminals).

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Photo: Promoting Transportation Development of the Dnieper River

About the project:

The main purpose of “Promoting Transportation Development of the Dnieper River” technical assistance project is to assist the Infrastructure Ministry of Ukraine in developing inland water transport in Ukraine according to the EU’s legislation and best practices.

Assistance is provided in developing the new Inland Water Transport Law and regulatory acts to enhance the potential and capabilities of various public institutions to perform their functions concerning development of inland water transport, which are necessary for a full-fledged functioning of the inland water transport sector.

The team of the EU-funded “Promoting Transportation Development of the Dnieper River” project also assists the Infrastructure Ministry of Ukraine in preparing the Inland Water Transport Development Strategy of Ukraine, the Plan for Transportation Development of the Dnieper River, and the long-term Dnieper River Development Plan in order to determine, inter alia, the necessary amount of government investments.

Source: NV.UA