2020 will go down in history as the year that has thrown the whole transportation system into a never-before-seen level of uncertainty. The governmental restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic have caused disruptions severely affecting ports, shipping, transport, and supply chains. While the longer-term impact of the outbreak is yet to be fully understood, all economic indicators, as well as the feedback received by Pro Danube from the industry, point to significant immediate challenges for the IWT sector. Hence, the outlook for 2021 is rather sobering: both passenger and cargo transportation was heavily affected, with cargo not having enough time to fully recover after the drought of 2018. Pro Danube will continue to intensify cooperation at all levels to make sure that the Danube IWT sector will emerge stronger from the current health and subsequent economic crisis.

Representing a network of more than 150 businesses, Pro Danube has closely followed the measures introduced by the different Danube Riparian Countries, being in close contact with relevant national and European institutions as well as other branch organisations in order to provide constructive input to the ongoing solution-finding processes. The last year has shown how important solidarity, transparency, and widely harmonised actions are. With IWT having a crucial role to fulfil in the Danube Region in terms of economic and social welfare, Pro Danube proposed a set of measures to provide the businesses operating on the Danube with more certainty. Firstly, one of the most urgent problems that needed to be addressed referred to the free change of crew members on inland vessels and as such the implementation of uniform regulations. Secondly, keeping border control locations as in regular conditions is of utmost importance in securing a smooth transport flow in times of crisis. The implementation of the DAVID forms developed in the framework and cooperation of EUSDR PA1a and PA11 in several EU and non-EU countries was a vital step forward in reducing time-consuming and often costly administrative procedures. Thirdly, supporting the recovery of the sector by an EU-wide harmonised approach for the cruising and shipping industry is an essential prerequisite to provide the sector with adequate financial actions and measures that pave the way towards the adaptation to the strict environmental legislative framework adopted by the Legislative. 

In order to be fully and thoroughly informed, Pro Danube used various communication channels to reach out and engage with the industry on a regular basis. Since the early stages of the crisis, the PDI Administrative Barrier Reporting Tool (available in all languages of the Danube Region) was used as an additional instrument to collect first-hand information about the challenges faced by stakeholders in their daily activities.
 
But the year 2020 meant way more than the COVID-19 pandemic. Pro Danube was happy to start a new promising transnational collaboration in the framework of the DIONYSUS project. We committed ourselves to further strengthen the efficient partnership already established in previously implemented DTP projects under the leadership of PDI such as DANTE, DAPhNE and GRENDEL to actively promote IWT as a reliable alternative to other modes of transport – even in times of crisis. The year 2020 also marked the end of a successful transnational success story: the GRENDEL project. Initiated by Pro Danube International, GRENDEL was a vital step forward in providing a fruitful ground for the establishment of dedicated financial instruments that trigger investments in the Danube fleet. Another successful project which ended in 2020 was W2GAS. The project provided valuable insights into sustainable developments in the fuel sector as well into Austrian biogas technology solutions that can be applied at other locations at well.

Equally important for the IWT sector was the selection of two key transport projects FAIRway works! in the Rhine-Danube Corridor and Preparing FAIRway 2 works in the Rhine-Danube Corridor - co-financed via the Connecting Europe Facility. Both Actions are carried out following the results of the CEF funded Actions FAIRway Danube and are co-ordinated by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology with the support of viadonau as designated implementing body. For both, Pro Danube and several of its members provided letters of support and will continue to follow their implementation and provide inputs from the business perspective.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, 2021 is a year of new beginnings: we are happy to announce that starting with January we are part of two major H2020 projects: LASTING and PLATINA 3.

In 2021 we also celebrate a decade of commitment to the well-being of the IWT sector: 10 years since the establishment of Pro Danube International. This milestone will be marked by a Pro Danube General Assembly foreseen to take place on 26 March with the participation of Mrs. Inés Ayala Sender, the new European Coordinator for the Rhine-Danube Core Network Corridor as of 1 January 2021

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