09:30 25.05.2020

The Future of Inland Waterways in Ukraine: Creating opportunities for Everyone

7 min read

This year, as Ukraine fights to remain resilient in the face of the unprecedented pandemic, investment in inland waterways infrastructure - as a potent economic stimulus tool - is generating renewed interest as policy makers begin to consider the path to reform.

Over the next weeks, inland waterway transport (IWT) professionals and EU experts will share lessons learned from past reform efforts and other insights to help decision-makers make the most impactful decisions about what to build. We’ll also be talking about other topics driving the future of IWT in Ukraine, from improved legal and regulative framework, to securing resources and tackling market access.

Thank you for being part of this important dialogue. As we navigate this crisis together, we wish each of you and your families to stay safe and healthy.

EU Technical Assistance Project for Dnipro Transport Development

Interview with Edwin Lock, Team Leader, EU Technical Assistance Project for Dnipro Transport Development

Why does Ukraine need a reform of the Inland Waterway Transport (IWT)?

Ukraine has a very extended inland waterway network. The Dnipro is the biggest and the most important river and should be considered a national treasure of Ukraine. The river is used for transportation of goods and people but also has a variety of other functions. Via the hydropower stations, energy is generated, it is also a water source for people and the agricultural sector and of course, the river is used for leisure activities like swimming, fishing and sailing.

Given the multiple users of the river, the most important aspects of the reforms in IWT are to organize the public management of the river system (who is responsible for what) and to secure finance for the maintenance of and investments in public inland waterway transport infrastructure, like fairways and ship locks. Another important objective of the reforms is that it should promote river transport and enable a shift of freight transport from road to inland waterway transport, being a cost-efficient and environmental-friendly mode of transport.

These reforms are to be materialized in first instance with a dedicated law for inland waterway transport, which is already over 10 years under discussion in the Verkhovna Rada.

It needs to be pointed out that the adoption of the new IWT Law is only the first step for revitalizing the inland waterway transport sector in Ukraine. After the adoption of the law, the capacity of many different governmental entities involved in the management, operations and maintenance of the inland waterway transport sector needs to be modernized and strengthened.  Moreover, also the private sector has to do its share by developing the inland waterway transport product and unlock new markets.

It is also strongly recommended to establish an IWT Platform, under which the public and private sector can have a regular and structured dialogue aiming to improve inland waterway transport conditions, and to set up a market observation system where the development of river transport is monitored.

This is a well-established successful experience from the EU Member States. The beginning of this century has been a turning point in the development of inland water transport in Europe. National barriers on market access and tariff systems hampering competition were lifted, regulatory frameworks for vessels and crew members were harmonized and brought to a technological and societal ‘state of the art’ standard. The establishment of the unique European platform CESNI may be considered a milestone for the development of inland navigation in Europe. All countries engaged in this transport mode participate actively, enabling CESNI to ensure sustainable development, providing access to new technology and keeping inland navigation a performing, viable carrier, henceforth fully integrated in the European transport system. 

The step-wise process towards recognition on European level as a modern carrier, was accompanied and even driven by a close cooperation between authorities and national and European representative industrial organizations, at all levels of decision taking: European Commission and Parliament, river commissions, working groups and the great number of projects for research, development and implementation in the area of IWT. Ukraine is challenged to join this sustainability driven development of the traditional transport mode of inland navigation.

Another suggestion is to develop an IWT Promotion Plan, aimed to market the whole chain of river transport services in general and to gain support from the Ukrainian society for inland waterways transport. Our project will assist the Ukrainian authorities in drafting the IWT Promotion Plan - to consolidate EU best practices - and further support its adoption in Ukraine.

Ukraine needs reforms in the inland waterway transport also in order to be able to integrate its economy and transportation links with the European Union, based on the EU-UA Association Agreement, and therefore needs to align to EU legislation.

What would the strengthening of Inland Waterways mean for the overall transport sector in Ukraine and what are the main barriers for inland waterway transport in Ukraine?

Strengthening river transport gives Ukraine the opportunity to unlock the potential of freight transport by inland waterways and will offer a cost-effective alternative for road and rail. This will result in lower overall transportation costs. As transportation costs are included in the selling price of goods, it is obvious that transport should be organized as efficient as possible and thus minimizing those costs.

In Ukraine only a few commodities are presently transported by rivers. These commodities include grain, metals, some oil products and construction materials (sand and gravel). There are opportunities for other types of cargoes like containers and rolling equipment (cars, trucks, agricultural machineries) to be transported by IWT, as is the case on the rivers in the EU.

The present barriers for the development of IWT are the uncertainties in the legal and regulatory system, and the lack of investments in third party transport systems.

Will IWT have a negative impact on the environment?

Compared with rail and road, river transport is the most environmental-friendly mode of transport with regard to Green House Gasses (GHG) emissions. However, river transport generates some waste (household waste and bilge water), and part of this waste ends up in the rivers.

The main polluters are industries that discharge uncleaned cooling water and waste in the rivers and the agricultural sector, while also one-third of the household sewage is discharged in rivers without going through a water treatment plant.

In addition, one is to realize that not many vessels are presently using Ukrainian rivers, and therefore the enforcement of waste collection will hardly see the quality of river water improved. On the other side, when demanding the private sector to deliver its waste ashore or to have a water treatment plant onboard, will increase operator costs and make IWT again more expensive. And besides, also the Government has to ensure the availability of waste reception facilities at river ports, which requires substantial investments.

Of course, in due time, when river transport is again a much used mode of transport for freight and passengers, ship waste reception should be managed both from a legal point of view, e.g. make it compulsory and ensure enforcement, and operationally, by providing sufficient waste reception capacities at the river ports and terminals.

Who we are:

The principal objective of the EU Assistance for Dnipro Transport Development Project is to assist the Ministry of Infrastructure to revitalize the IWT sector in Ukraine in line with the EU legislation and best practices.

Assistance is given with drafting the new Law on IWT, drafting of secondary legislation and upgrading the capacity and capability of the different public IWT functions of various governmental entities, required for a good functioning of the IWT sector.

The EU project team is also assisting the Ministry of Infrastructure with the preparation of an Inland Waterways (IWW) Transport Strategy for Ukraine and the Dnipro IWW Transport Development Plan, a long-term development plan for the Dnipro to indicate among others, the required public investments.

What we do. Watch us in action: