The solutions

Fit the ships to the river, not the river to the ships

 / ©: Sibylle Vogel
Sustainable navigation developed in harmony with ecology.
© Sibylle Vogel
Solutions exist for accommodating increased use of the Danube for shipping while maintaining the river's many other functions. But they require political will and some forward thinking.

Europe has changed since 1989, and the need for transportation on the Danube has increased. But this does not need to come at a cost of the Danube as a living river and the multitude of benefits and services that it provides all of us.

Following are some basic approaches for promoting sustainable shipping on the Danube.

Plan right
-- We need to make sure that we have the best solutions, before undertaking irreversible river regulation measures that we may well regret later.

Current approaches to promoting shipping on the Danube focus on digging and building first, and then seeing what happens -- a backward approach that makes neither ecological, nor social or economic sense.

Use innovation and technology
-- We need to look forward and exploit innovation and technology, including new and proven designs for building/upgrading shallow draught ships, as well as information and communications technology.

Current approaches focus on building bigger and bigger ships -- and then fitting the river to the ships. Fitting the ships to the river is less destructive -- and much cheaper.  This needs political will and support to change the fleet within the next 15-20 years.

Address other bottlenecks
-- Many of the bottlenecks to increasing shipping on the Danube are not related to the depth of the river.  These include the logistical connections between river, road and rail that permit the smooth transfer of goods from one destination to another, as well as poor availability of longer-time predictions of water levels.

Existing capacity for shipping on the Danube is not fully used. The focus should be on removing logistical and other bottlenecks before irreversible changes are made to the river on which we depend.

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