DAPhNE – Danube Ports Network (EUSDR Strategic Project)

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DAPhNE – Danube Ports Network (EUSDR Strategic Project)

Posted by , Monday, 25th September 2017 @ 2:26 pm

Basic  project  data 

Project ID: PA1A133
Project website: www.interreg-danube.eu/daphne


Need  and  added  value  for  the  Danube  Region  Strategy

There are approximately 70 ports along the 2.414 km length of the Danube and out of these it is only those in Germany and Austria that display an adequate level of infrastructure, facilities and technologies that allows them to provide high-quality transport and logistics services in record time and with a reduced effect on the environment. There is in fact a gap in the transport infrastructure quality, safety and eco-performance between the Western and the Eastern countries in the Danube region. If efforts are to be made for the development of a sustainable transport network, low-carbon modes of transport like inland navigation will have to gain ground as opposed to road transport. In order to stimulate this process, ports need to be further developed as they have a huge potential to become efficient nodal hubs for logistics as well as buzzing economic areas.

Nevertheless, the port community downstream of Austria is facing a series of drawbacks that are preventing the Danube from being used to its full potential as an international transport corridor. There is on the one hand the issue of poor access infrastructure linking the ports to other major transport modes (roads and rail). To this, the issue of obsolete port infra- & super-structure, out-dated equipment and insufficient waterway maintenance is added. Due to the varied legal frameworks applicable in the region there is a high diversity of ownership and administrative and operational models on display, which makes it quite difficult for private investments to be made in this sector. Furthermore, although there are EU funding programmes available for carrying out port development projects, the lack of human resources and/or expertise of the current managers of the public port infrastructure has resulted in very low absorption rates and in a limited number of success-stories regarding port upgrade and development initiatives. Owing to the authorities’ lack of knowledge, there have also been very few attempts at creating more adequate legal and financial frameworks that would allow and encourage the private sector representatives to invest in port infrastructure development. In addition, ports are often considered to be obstacles to urban real-estate development initiatives rather than an opportunity for economic expansion and regional growth.

The results are to be seen in the demand for freight transport on the Danube which displays very modest growth rates or even reductions. The market observation elaborated in 2014 for Inland Navigation Europe analysed the data available for 2013 and concluded that on the Upper Danube countries the year-on-year volumes were constant. The same was also valid for the Central Danube region (Hungary and Croatia). For the Lower Danube countries though there was a decline in the transport volumes. This was partly attributed to the market conditions: adverse development on the raw materials and goods associated with steel industry, but also due to the navigation conditions as a consequence of the shortcomings in waterway maintenance and the outdated infrastructure elements.

In order to ensure a balanced development of the transport network in the Danube region and to secure a better connectivity and interoperability between Danube Ports there needs to be a project platform allowing the elaboration of a transnational strategy for Danube ports and targeted actions to improve the functioning of Danube ports. These actions target port legislation, port administration/ management and port development as fundamental elements for further developing ports into multimodal hubs, high-performing terminals providing reliable transport links and economic growth and job opportunities.

The DAPhNE project aims at developing this project platform in the Danube region that would allow a permanent and long-term structured exchange of information between all relevant stakeholders: port administrations, port operators, universities & training centres designed to educate the future port employees, but also municipalities and private investors.

The project platform shall function as a network which works as a generator of future development, innovation and capacity building projects and could lead to a permanent structure of cooperation. Overtime, the effects in the region should be measured by:

  • Identification of state-aid schemes to support port investments, according to the example provided in the Western European countries
  • Increased number of port development projects that would in their turn help increase the volume of goods transported on water
  • Diversification of cargo flows in the Danube ports
  • Cross-border regional development plans and actions
  • Improved instruments for public-private cooperation

Strategies, tools and pilot actions in the tackled action lines.


Ports are key elements for a shift to a more competitive low-carbon economy in the Danube region. Unfortunately, the unbalanced development in terms of infra-& super-structure, legislation, funding schemes, administrative processes between the Upper and Middle & Lower Danube section ports, prevents the shift towards a more efficient transport network from taking place. The main DAPhNE objective is to facilitate this transition by approaching the dominant shortcomings of Danube ports in an integrated manner. Harmonized solutions are to be developed jointly by private and public stakeholders along the river, each of them bringing specific expertise for a relevant topic (ministries, port administrations and users tackle legal issues, funding opportunities, port administration processes; together with universities they will focus on human resources development and innovative greening technologies; specialized consultancy & ports will develop and operate pilot port IT community systems as well as investigate new prospective markets such as circular economy). For all Danube ports to be able to provide a similar level of services and to use comparable technologies, an extensive know-how transfer in the region (specific objective 1) will take place, allowing the less developed ports to benefit from the lessons learned by their more experienced Upper Danube (& Western Europe) counterparts. This collaboration results in harmonized instruments & tools designed to stimulate investments and thus speed up the transformation of the Danube ports (e.g. via the state-aid model schemes) .This collaboration will not only occur on a geographical level. The consortium members will also focus on cooperation that is inter-sectoral & transnational in its nature (specific objective 2). When upgrading ports to multi-modal hubs, their economic efficiency is also dependable on their environmental performances. Sustainable ports are green ports and capable of providing and distributing alternative energy. Their business strategies are not only run by financial & economic reasons, but they also pay attention to human resources development. As new technologies are being applied and new regulations are introduced to help reduce the ports' carbon footprint, special training is required for the port staff. Another important issue where the DAPhNE consortium will provide solutions is connected to innovation and how new IT solutions & logistics concepts can contribute to the balanced development of Danube ports (specific objective 3). To improve the quality level of the logistics services provided along the river, information on the shipment status, berth allocation, port traffic details should be available immediately. For this reason the consortium will turn its attention to implementing a pilot for a port IT community system, thus proving the Danube ports potential of becoming state-of-the-art logistics centres. This multifaceted approach will support the balanced port development.                                                                            

PLANNED  project  activities

The project is divided into 6 work packages:

  • WP1: Project Management
  • WP2: Communication Activities
  • WP3: Port Legislation & Funding
  • WP4: Administration & Management
  • WP5: Port Development
  • WP6: Port Strategy & Network

WP1 deals with the project management tasks required on a daily basis in line with the conditions imposed by the funding programme. The preparation of project documents (work plan, progress reports) and the formation of a Steering Committee authorized to take decisions at consortium level are foreseen tasks within this work-package. The financial management of the overall project is also included in this section and it is performed in line with the programme rules.

WP2 is designed to inform the general public about the progress made at project level and disseminate details about the deliverables and results achieved by the consortium. All tasks foreseen here will be carried out in line with the publicity guidelines established by the funding programme. Communication aspects are analysed internally, between the consortium members, and externally, promoting the project outputs and results to relevant stakeholders all across the Danube Region. The official start-up and closure of the project will be marked by special events reuniting external and internal project stakeholders.

WP3 includes all the tasks that are linked to the regulatory framework of Danube ports. The legal conditions in force as well as the funding possibilities available for Danube ports are investigated and measures are suggested to improve the current situation. An improved regulatory framework will help eliminate the quality gaps in terms of infra-& super-structure existing between the Upper, Middle & Lower Danube sections. The objective of the WP is to adopt a joint harmonized approach in regards to legal port issues in order to apply the Same River, Same Rules principle. In the long run, this will secure a balanced development of Danube ports as buzzing economic centres. To this end, the representatives from the private and public port sector all along the Danube (RO,HR & BG Ministries of Transport, port administrations and port associations) join forces to investigate the issues regarding port legislation & public funding.

First of all, a pool of entities interested in approaching these topics at national level is formed. Once the information is gathered the selection of active members is made and an international working-group is set-up. The members of this group will highlight which aspects of the port legislation have to be clarified at national level, in each of the participating riparian countries. National reports will be elaborated and then debated at specific national events.

The same approach will be taken in regards to the funding issues, in order to determine what financial aids already exist in the Danube region to help support port investments and how to propose a regional model for such state-aid schemes. These should encourage the private sector to invest in port infrastructure and in other logistics facilities in the area.

The WP is divided into 3 activities, as follows: 3.1 Foundation of working group on port legislation and public funding, 3.2 Improve & harmonize port legislation & 3.3 State-aid schemes for funding investments in ports.

WP4 will tackle the topics of port administration and management and possible solutions to solve the problems associated to increased bureaucracy in port operations.

Starting from the current situation along the Danube, suggestions will be made for the improvement and harmonization of port administration processes as well as for the fine tuning of the port business strategies. Since ports deal with a range of disparate activities covering administrative functions (control of all types of vehicles accessing the port area, cargo control, environmental issues, safety & security within the jurisdiction area) and operational functions (controlling the arrival & departures of vessels, the loading & unloading of cargo, berth distribution, etc.) it is advisable to treat these items together.

Nevertheless, in order to properly perform these functions the efficient management of a port also involves handling its resources in a sustainable manner. Special attention will be paid on the one hand to human resource development and on the other hand to the way natural energy resources are being used within the port area.

As such, this work package is divided into 4 activities that highlight the aspects previously explained. 4.1 deals with the improvement and harmonization of port administrative processes, 4.2 aims at improving business strategies, 4.3 focuses on human resources development for the port community and 4.4 tackles eco-improvements for Danube ports.

4.1 Good practices regarding port administration will be reviewed and compared to the status quo in this field in the Danube riparian ports. In the end, recommendations will be made to simplify and harmonize port administration processes. The results will be communicated to the interested parties via dedicated workshops.

4.2 Different port management models will also be investigated and compared in order to come up with recommendations based on the advantages and disadvantages of the available examples. Aspects regarding port governance, ownership and port management will be debated and different solutions of dealing with these aspects will be supplied.

4.3 Another issue relevant for port management is linked to increase human capacity in the port organizations. The best strategies and instruments available will be investigated and solutions valid for the Danube ports will be identified as well as public funding opportunities investigated.

4.4 Eco-improvements for Danube ports will also be explored in an attempt to identify suitable solutions regarding energy efficiency, clean energy provision and distribution in selected ports. Guidelines for green port policies will also be drafted.

Transnational cooperation is fully displayed in this WP as Upper, Middle & Lower Danube PPs collaborate and share their know-how and expertise in order to jointly produce recommendations and guidelines to help upgrade & better run ports.

WP5 is addressing aspects regarding port development which is seen as a catalyst to stimulate economic activity and create employment. In Europe, port developments relate mainly to building new terminals and upgrading the super- & infra-structure within existing ports rather than developing new greenfield sites. As such, much of the reform process has moreto do with the organization and operational aspects of ports.

This WP will assess the situation along the Danube and will focus on 3 pillars that contribute to transforming ports into key-hubs of the European transport network and help trigger the reform process: infrastructure investments, funding sources for stimulating investments and innovation. The goal is to provide a comprehensive package of the issues to be approached jointly in order to help compensate the unbalanced development level between the Upper Danube ports and the other river sections. For this, 4 activities have been planned.

In 5.1 the focus will be on means of stimulating the upgrade of the port infrastructure & industrial development. This activity corresponds to the 1st pillar.

The second activity will target the issue of financing port investments, as experienced via public-private partnerships (2nd pillar).

In regards to the 3rd pillar dealing with innovation two activities have been planned. In 5.3 the consortium will focus on the simplification of the work flow within the ports with the help of a modular port community system. A pilot implementation of this IT system will be planned & implemented in 3 ports along the Danube.  Other Danube ports will be able to apply this system by adapting to their own needs the IT model architecture developed by the DAPhNE PPs. In 5.4 innovative markets will be investigated in order to identify potential types of cargo that could be transported on the Danube and the special conditions that the ports have to comply with to accommodate these future changes. The findings will be reflected in the case studies for new markets - circular economy.

WP6 sets-up the Danube Ports Network and provides the Danube Ports Development Strategy and its accompanying Action Plan. This permanent working platform for ports not only facilitates the know-how exchange between its members but also promotes and makes use of a set of jointly elaborated guidelines and recommendations that will be made available to more than 60 ports in the region. The work is split into three activities and each contributes to facilitate communication and collaboration in the region and provides the necessary tools for an unhindered exchange of information between the members.

To begin with, the focus is to determine the objectives and goals necessary to address the challenges faced by the Danube ports (poor & obsolete infra-&super-structure, insufficient funding sources, diverse regulatory framework, etc.). This will be achieved in act. 6.1 which will produce the Danube Port Development Strategy & Action Plan.

Next, the efforts of the DAPhNE PPs will be concentrated on setting-up and enlarging the Danube Ports Network (6.2). The manner in which the network will run, its members and the means it will employ and promote the DAPhNE outputs and results will be clarified in this section. To ensure the network's durability, special documents like a Financing Model and a Business Plan will be elaborated. Furthermore, there will also be a work program drafted to set the short & mid-term priorities of the Danube Ports Network.

Last but not least, the pilot operation of the Danube Ports Network Organization will be tested in activity 6.3. The organization will host its initial meeting and will start implementing its yearly work plan. Special events like the Danube Port Days and the Port Policy Days will be organized as biennial events to facilitate networking possibilities within the port community and also help consolidate the market visibility of its members.

Transboundary  impact

The transboundary impact of the project should be assessed via the results brought about by the cooperation realized via the Danube Ports Network:

  • Jointly elaborated long-term development strategy for Danube Ports
  • Permanent and long-term exchange of information that shall lead to cooperation projects of common or multi-party interest based on good practices, recommendations and innovative tools
  • Definition & implementation of port regulations and state-aid schemes for port & terminal investments
  • Execution of pilot Port Network activities to market the port services (Danube Port Days) and to improve the economic and environmental performance (Danube Policy Days)

These actions are all focused on ports as they are perceived as catalysts for re-industrialization and regional growth, natural centres of economic activities, capable of creating jobs in the Danube region.

The work achieved by the consortium will allow the ports on the Lower and Central Danube Region (both inland and maritime ones) to have access to the know-how and experience of the Upper Danube ports and to recent development in Western Europe. As projects for the upgrade of port infra- & super-structure are being prepared in countries like Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary it is best to provide them with a set of lessons learnt and good practices reflecting the success stories already registered.

Project  beneficiaries  /  target  groups

  • Infrastructure & service providers (Shipping companies, Port operators, Forwarding companies, port administrations, etc.)
  • National public authorities (Ministries of transport, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Finance, etc.)
  • Higher Education and research institutions
  • Local public authorities             
  • Business Support Organizations

status  and  timeframe

Start date: 01.01.2017
End date: 30.06.2019
The project is already concluded.


Total budget: 2,985,406.15 EUR
EU funds: 2,415,219.42 EUR (ERDF – European Regional Development Fund)
                       122,375.77 EUR (IPA – Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance)
funded by Danube Transnational Programme (DTP) 2014 - 2020
National funds: 164,247.61 EUR (state contributions)
Private funds: 144,889.08 EUR (private own contribution from the PPs)
Other: 138,674.27 EUR (public own contribution provided by some of the PPs)

Project  team

Project leader: Pro Danube International (Austria)
(website: https://www.prodanube.eu/)
Address: Handelskai 265, 1020, Vienna / Austria
Contact person: Manfred Seitz (Pro Danube International)
Contact data: seitz@prodanube.eu; +43 676 406 78 78

Project partner(s):

The project consortium includes representatives of both the core (Enns, Vienna, Vukovar, Constanta, Galati) and comprehensive ports (Braila, Tulcea, etc.) from both the Western and Eastern part of the Danube region. In addition to these members, there are representatives from the private sector (a private port operator, a private IT development company, a consultancy firm) and from the academic field (Ovidius University in Constanta/RO and the University of Applied Sciences in Austria) willing to work together to set-up, enlarge and run the Danube Ports Network and its pilot activities.

ERDF Partners:

  • Ennshafen Port/ AT
  • iC consulenten ZT GesmbH/ AT
  • University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria/ AT
  • National Company Maritime Danube Ports Administration Galati/ RO
  • National Company Maritime Ports Administration SA Constanta/ RO
  • Ovidius University of Constanta/ RO
  • Pro Danube Romania/ RO
  • Ministry of Transport/ RO
  • Bulgarian Ports Infrastructure Company/ BG
  • Public Institution Port Authority Vukovar/ HR
  • RGO Communications Ltd./ HR
  • ILR Logistica Romania SRL/ RO
  • Hungarian Federation of Danube Ports/ HU
  • Public Ports jsc/ SK

IPA Partner:                                                        

  • Port Governance Agency/RS

Associated Strategic Partners:

  • Container Terminal Enns/ AT
  • Giurgiu Municipality/ RO
  • Port of Vienna/ AT
  • Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure/HR
  • Ministry of Transport, Information Technology & Communications/BG
  • Danube Logistics SRL/ MD
  • State Enterprise Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority/UA

Project  Environment

Project  cross - reference

The project is included in thematic pole 7 – Waterborne Transport/ Waterways  of the Danube Transnational Capitalisation Strategy along with other approved 1st call DTP projects:

  • DBS Gateway Region

During the DTP approval with conditions phase it was considered that DBS Gateway Region should establish specific synergies with the DAPhNE project.

Synergies with the 1st call DTP project ENERGY BARGE (thematic pole 8 – Sustainable Energy) are also foreseen as Danube ports are part of the stakeholders addressed. Furthermore, the DAPhNE activities linked to innovative markets are also relevant to the work performed by the ENERGY BARGE consortium in regards to the sustainable use of biomass and its associated logistics chain along the Danube.

Another project of significance to the DAPhNE project is the already concluded DaHar project (PA1A059).

Eusdr  embedding


eusdr  compliance


Meta  data

Data provided by: Raluca Danila (Pro Danube International, Austria) - 25.09.2017

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