The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, a €11 million Italian scheme to support freight transport by inland waterways in Italy. The scheme takes the form of direct grants to inland waterway transport companies. It consists of three measures. The first measure aims at better integrating the inland waterways network in the logistic chains and at increasing its competitiveness, efficiency and safety, by providing aid for the modernisation of vessels and their adaptation to make them suitable both for inland waterway navigation and for accessing and mooring in seaports.
The second measure aims at encouraging the entry of new players in the market by providing aid for the purchase of their first vessel, thus contributing to the revitalisation of the sector. The third measure aims at offsetting some of the additional costs of switching from road to inland waterway transport through the partial coverage of operating costs. The Commission assessed the scheme under EU State aid rules, in particular Article 93 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) regarding transport coordination. It found that the scheme is beneficial for the environment and for mobility, as it supports waterway transport which is less polluting than road transport, while also decreasing road congestion. In this respect, it will contribute to the reduction of CO2 and air pollutant emissions, in line with the EU’s climate and environmental objectives set out in the European Green Deal.
The Commission also found that the scheme is proportionate and necessary to achieve the objective pursued, namely to support the modal shift of freight transport from road to waterways. The Commission therefore concluded that the positive effects of the scheme outweigh any potential distortion of competition and trade brought about by the aid. On this basis, the Commission approved the scheme under EU State aid rules. The approved scheme forms part of a major modernisation of Italian inland waterway transport, which follows up and builds on the projects for the infrastructural upgrade of the Northern Italy Waterway System, which were implemented and co-financed by EU funds as part of the TEN-T Core Network.
It also complements the Ferrobonus and Marebonus aid schemes within the broader policy pursued by the 2015 ‘National Strategic Plan for Port and Logistics activities’ that aims at promoting the intermodal chain and developing inland waterway transport. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.58817 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.