Investing in labour skills to keep the Danube moving

The Danube is a vital pan-European transport artery, carrying some 45 million tonnes of cargo in 2011. One EU project focused on the further education and training of the people who watch over the river’s vessels, to ensure this sector has a bright future.

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The “NELI-InfoDanube” training and information centre © Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism of Romania, NELI partners. The “NELI-InfoDanube” training and information centre © Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism of Romania, NELI partners.

The Danube region is home to 115 million people. Its river runs 2 850 km from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea, traversing 10 European countries.

Developing inland waterway transport (IWT) – including intermodal infrastructure to shift containers between ships, trucks and trains – depends on enhanced cooperation among the region’s countries. This is a goal of EU cohesion policy, implemented through programmes such as the South-East Europe Transnational Cooperation Programme.

Among the challenges facing cargo carriers is a shortage of qualified navigation personnel, due to limited training and education opportunities in the Danube countries. Working aboard vessels, in ports and in logistics, they ensure that river traffic moves safely and smoothly.

Future Danube captains

Addressing this specific challenge was the EU project NELI – Cooperation Network for logistics and nautical education focusing on inland waterway transport in the Danube corridor supported by innovative solutions. It brought together 15 partners working in inland waterway transport from eight countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The new cooperation network facilitates information exchange and joint activities among the countries involved.

Each of the eight partner countries participating in the project developed a National Action Plan. These were incorporated into a Danube Transnational Plan, focusing on joint actions for common standards and concepts in the training of qualified personnel for Danube waterway navigation, transport and logistics. Actions include joint recruitment and training of nautical personnel, harmonisation of training and certification, and development of modern teaching materials. The Transnational Plan dovetails with the 2010 EU Strategy for the Danube Region, whose own Action Plan calls for investment in education and jobs in the Danube navigation sector.

Other notable project results are the setting up of four “NELI-InfoDanube” IWT information and training centres (Austria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania) plus the development of IWT education and training material, both for schools in the Danube region, and for use online.

"NELI was a remarkable challenge for all its partners in that it represented a pioneering attempt in setting up a transnational network bringing together relevant stakeholders from all  Danube-riparian countries and offering them appropriate services and instruments intended to close existing IT gaps, promote inland navigation and pave the way for new, joint and cross-border activities."

- Vasile Pipirigeanu, NELI Project Manager


Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the projectNELI - Cooperation-network for logistics and nautical education focusing on inland waterway transport in the Danube corridor supported by innovative solutions” is EUR 2 167 800, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 624 650 through the priority axis 3 “Improvement of the Accessibility, Intervention area 2 – Develop strategies to tackle the ‘digital divide’” of the South-East Europe Transnational Cooperation Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.


Draft date

31/10/2013