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Document 51998AC0447

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the 'Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 82/714/EEC of 4 October 1982 laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels'

OJ C 157, 25.5.1998, p. 17 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

51998AC0447

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the 'Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 82/714/EEC of 4 October 1982 laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels'

Official Journal C 157 , 25/05/1998 P. 0017


Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the 'Proposal for a Council Directive amending Directive 82/714/EEC of 4 October 1982 laying down technical requirements for inland waterway vessels` (98/C 157/05)

On 2 February 1998 the Council decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under Article 75 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Transport and Communications, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 11 March 1998. The rapporteur was Mr Kielman.

At its 353rd plenary session (meeting of 25 March 1998) the Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 101 votes to one with two abstentions.

1. The Commission proposal

1.1. The main purpose of this proposal is to update Directive 82/714/EEC of 4 October 1982 in line with technical progress in order to improve safety and promote inland waterway transport, which is a very environmentally friendly mode of transport.

1.2. Inland navigation vessels in Europe are currently subject to different regimes as regards technical requirements, namely:

1.2.1. The revised Regulation on Inspection of Shipping on the Rhine of 1 January 1995, the so-called 'Rhine Rules`, as adopted by the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCNR). This applies to vessels operating on the waterways covered by the Revised Mannheim Convention (1868) and is legally binding for its signatories (Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland).

1.2.2. Council Directive 82/714/EEC of 4 October 1982. This directive is of course binding on EU Member States and must be transposed into national law. However, those Member States with inland waterways which are not linked to the international network can exempt vessels from the directive's provisions. This international waterway network extends to only six countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands.

1.2.3. The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) Recommendations on (uniform) technical requirements for inland waterway vessels. These recommendations - which apply outside the EU and are specified in the Annex to Resolution No 17 (14 October 1981) of the Working Party on Inland Waterway Transport - are not legally binding but may be adopted.

1.3. There are, however, also differences in the technical level required by the sets of rules mentioned under point 2.2. The upshot is that, despite the existence of an international waterway network linking, since the construction of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in 1992, the Black Sea to the North Sea, there is no common standard for vessels operating on this network.

1.4. Hence there is an urgent need to update the technical requirements laid down in Directive 82/714/EEC in line with the latest Rhine Rules. These contain the most up-to-date safety standards which have proved their worth in practice; this is why the UN-ECE has opted for this approach. The adoption of common technical standards will therefore make it possible to establish an internal market in inland waterway transport.

1.5. The appended table 1 shows when the technical requirements for inland waterway vessels come into force following the proposed revision of Directive 82/714 and what kind of inspections will be carried out. The transitional provisions stipulate when all vessels must comply with the standards. Finally, every vessel operating on the specified waterways will be provided with a Community certificate. The internal market will then be attained.

2. General comments

2.1. When the above-mentioned measures have been implemented, transport by inland waterway will be safer, a coherent set of technical requirements for inland waterway vessels in the EU will be established and a contribution made to harmonization on a pan-European scale.

2.2. As regards pan-European harmonization, those associated countries which are linked to the Community's waterways (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) must comply with the requirements of the revised directive.

2.3. In this way inland waterway transport will be made easier, a modal shift in favour of waterways will be encouraged and, given the environmentally friendly nature of this mode of transport, environmental problems will be made more manageable.

3. Specific comments

3.1. It is important that passenger vessels built to carry more than 12 passengers, as well as floating equipment and floating establishments, are now also to fall under the scope of the amended directive, subject to the conditions laid down in its Article 8(4).

3.2. Sea-going vessels remain exempt from the scope of the amended directive provided that they are in possession of the relevant maritime certificates.

3.3. An important additional advantage of harmonized technical specifications is that carriers and other suppliers in this sector can operate on a larger internal market, with a more level playing-field.

4. Conclusions

4.1. On the basis on the arguments outlined above, the Committee welcomes the proposal to amend Directive 82/714/EEC of 4 October 1982. It acknowledges the importance of harmonizing inland waterway transport as a major subsector of the transport market.

4.2. The Committee urges the Commission to map out the consequences of harmonizing the inland waterways market in consultation with all the interested parties, including the economic and social partners.

Brussels, 25 March 1998.

The President of the Economic and Social Committee

Tom JENKINS

APPENDIX to the opinion of the Economic and Social Committee

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