Waterborne passenger transport, including maritime ferries, inland ferries, barges and cruises, plays a crucial role in achieving a more sustainable and efficient European transport sector, assisted by policies that address safety, environmental standards, cross-border cooperation and competitiveness as well as service quality, passenger rights and barrier-free accessibility.
A large number of commuters in Europe travel by road, creating bottlenecks, congestion and delays on Europe’s urban routes. Making better use of available capacity of waterborne passenger transport could not only help reduce congestion and CO2 emissions, but also improve air quality and provide better transport services overall.
Europe's geography features many rivers, waterways, estuaries, long coastlines and islands, and therefore offers extraordinary opportunities for waterborne transport. There are many areas in Europe where travelling by ferry or cruise ships would be more sustainable, easier and quicker, increasing the region's social and economic welfare alongside the protection of Europe's environment and the health of its citizens.
Passenger ships play an important role for the mobility of EU citizens - more than 400 million people pass through EU ports every year, with 120 million passengers transported between ports of the same Member State. The EU passenger ship safety legislation has been put in place over a period of 15 years and mainly in response to accidents. It resulted in improved safety of life on passenger ships sailing in EU waters and facilitated search and rescue operations. It also ensured that the majority of passengers transported by domestic passenger ships travel on ships complying with common EU safety standards. Nevertheless, there is further scope to step up the enforcement of existing rules, and simplify the current regulatory framework in order to remove outdated or overlapping requirements.
Even though waterborne transport is already one of the most sustainable ways to travel, there is further potential to make vessels cleaner and more energy efficient through investment in research and innovative technologies, for example with regard to solar and wind energy, onshore electricity and alternative fuels, while applying the principle of technology neutrality. Connected to this is the availability and use of EU funding such as the cohesion, structural, regional, INTERREG, Horizon 2020, CEF, TEN-T and EFSI funds.