Inland waterways: Council adopts position for safer and more efficient inland waterways information services

The Council adopted today its negotiating position (general approach) on a revised directive improving river information services (RIS) on inland waterways. RIS are advanced services and functionalities that primarily provide traffic and transport information for inland navigation purposes. The revised directive mainly aims to facilitate and accelerate the harmonised deployment of RIS on all the EU’s inland waterways in the context of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T).

We are happy to have reached an agreement on the Council’s position on this important file under our presidency. Once agreed with the European Parliament, this new law will encourage the much-desired modal shift in Europe by paving the way for transport services in our inland waterways to become safer, greener, and more efficient in the years to come.

  • Georges Gilkinet, Belgian deputy prime minister and minister of mobility

The evaluation of the 2005 directive concluded that the deployment of RIS is still slow and fragmented, which hampers the competitiveness and safety of the sector, and holds back its contribution to the objectives of the European green deal. The revised legislation aims to address the problems identified under the previous legal framework, and, more concretely:

  • to ensure RIS data availability and harmonised standards
  • to facilitate the integration of inland waterways transport into the multimodal chain
  • to ensure greater uptake and interoperability of digital solutions, and address data protection concern.

The general thrust of the Commission proposal has been retained in the Council’s position. However, the Council introduced several changes to the proposal, mainly with a view to making the existing rules clearer and more coherent from a technical perspective. The main amendments cover:

  • the scope of the directive: it will continue to apply on inland waterways and inland ports which are part of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), and which are directly connected to inland waterways and inland ports of another member state (which are also part of the TEN-T)
  • the complaint handling mechanism proposed by the Commission was considered too prescriptive and was therefore taken out of the text
  • the possibility to update the annex setting out the list of relevant data that must be supplied to RIS users by delegated acts was removed from the text
  • the transposition deadline was extended from 1 to 3 years after entry into force of the amended directive

Next steps

Following today’s adoption of the Council’s negotiating mandate (general approach), the incoming presidency can begin talks (‘trilogues’) with the European Parliament on this file.

Background information

Directive 2005/44/EC lays down a framework for the deployment and use of harmonised, interoperable, and open river information services (RIS). Its aim is to increase the safety, efficiency, and environmental friendliness of inland waterway transport. It sets out the general requirements for how RIS should be set up by the member states, the areas in which standards need to be developed and the principles to be followed. The Commission carried out an ex-post evaluation of the directive in 2021. The revision of the directive therefore aims to address the problems identified. The proposal was submitted by the Commission on 31 January 2024 in the context of its Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). It is based on the results of an impact assessment which was informed by an external support study. Tom Berendsen (EPP / NL) has been appointed as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on this file.