Transport modes


Shipping is an essential element of European transport. It:

  • carries nearly 90% of EU external freight
  • carries 40% of intra–EU freight
  • employs more than 500,000 people
  • has an annual turnover of around €72bn

400 million passengers embark or disembark each year at EU ports contributing to coastal economies and linking peripheral regions.


Today´s challenges for the sustainable development of shipping include optimal use of energy sources and minimisation of its environmental impacts – in particular with regard to pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.

The waterborne sector is still lagging behind in these respects compared to other modes of transport.

A modern, safe, secure and resource efficient waterborne transport system, encompassing deep-sea shipping, coastal shipping and the use of the internal waterways, is an essential requirement for any economy which aims to success at the global scale and provide a truly integrated internal market.

The entire value chain needs to speed-up creation and deployment of research and innovation solutions. There is a need to explore new frontiers in vessels, trends and the industrial use of the oceans.


Waterborne research has important goals:

  • making the sector greener
  • improving safety
  • increasing competitiveness
  • supporting a shift in freight transport from road to water

Waterborne transport research and innovation addresses the following areas of research:

  • improving the environmental performance of marine engines
  • energy efficiency and low emissions
  • safer operations
  • life-cycle costs
  • innovation within inland waterways
  • new and improved waterborne transport concepts


New research and innovation agendas and roadmaps are developed by WaterborneTP - the recognised European Technology Platform representing this specific transport sector.

Success Stories

A successful example of ship engine modernisation: HERCULES-C

Greater engine efficiency with longer lifetime has always been the Holy Grail for ship engine manufacturers. This is now linked to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

With visions of zero carbon emissions and superior performance, HERCULES-C is the third in a series of three EU-funded projects that have brought together the biggest names in ship engine manufacturing.

Some of its results can already be found in new ship engines.

More about HERCULES-C


A successful example of safety concept transfer from aviation transport to maritime one: Seahorse

This EU-funded project aims to transfer the effective and successful safety concepts utilised in the aeronautical industry to maritime transport by adapting and tailoring them to the unique needs of the industry.

More about Seahorse