Thursday, 29 Feb 2024
History of Danube-Oder-Elbe waterway - Europe is getting interested PDF Print E-mail
Article Index
History of Danube-Oder-Elbe waterway
From the industrial revolution to World Wars
The D-O-E waterway and Greater German Reich
The project in the time when “tomorrow meant yesterday already”
Europe is getting interested
All Pages


Europe is getting interested

In a contrast to the hesitant attitudes towards the water corridor D-O-E in the post-war Czechoslovakia, the all-European institutions treated the project as well as the systematic development of waterways as such quite differently. In the first place, it is necessary to mention activities of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva. 

As early as in 1959 the organization set an advanced goal of creating a unified waterway network of Europe. To succeed, they were ready to make especially two arrangements: integration of so far completely separated systems of the West and Southeast European waterways, and unification of the basic parameters of the unified network. International classification of European waterways was to become the instrument of such unification; it was first drawn in 1961, to be amended in 1992.

The new international waterway classification from 1992 has played a crucial (and until now perhaps not properly appreciated) role in development of their network. The waterway parameters thoroughly reflect a modul principle. It took into account that there is no point in applying wider or longer vessels on the larger waterways but rather wider and longer pushed convoys consisting of units of unified parameters. Such modul system corresponds with the traditional technology of pushed navigation in the USA. Its expansion was long prevented by conservative attitudes of navigation practicians. Owing to the classification, it is nowadays possible to head gradually for a completely homogenic waterway network of international importance, as the base unit (a pushed barge) has constant dimensions from the class Va up. The higher classes differ in number of barges engaged in the pushed convoy.  

Kategorie vodních cest 

Only so-called regional waterways (class I to III) do not apply the modul system. However, it concerns only small waterways, which will not be further developed. The class IV represents a certain transient type. The modul selection was based on the width 11.4 ms, which is far the most convenient for vessels on the European network. Firstly, most of the existing locks of European waterways are 12 or 24 ms wide, which could be optimally employed by the vessels of 11.4 ms. Secondly, the other reason is implied by the increasing role of container transport, which requires a tight fitting of the standard containers to the boat cargo area. The classification is rather permissive of drafts, as it allows exceptions depending on local circumstances. The bridge clearance is marked by different calibres suitable for transport of two, three or four container tiers; any intermediary calibres are not supposed to be used. According to UNECE, the final integration of the network was to be achieved through realization of three navigation connections:

 • the waterway Rhine – Main – Danube, 

• the waterway Danube – Oder – Elbe,

• and the waterway Oder – Vistula – Dnieper, or rather a fundamental modernization of the already existing, although old-fashioned waterways between these rivers.  

Schéma ze studie OSN zobrazující přepravy na spojení D-O-L 

A diagram of the future D-O-E waterway traffic density according to a research of the International rapporteur Group with EcE/UNO. The survey showed that the busiest part between Bratislava and Přerov would transport up to 40 mill. tons per year. However, the later estimation is a little more modest.  

In order to evaluate the economic efficiency of the projects, it was proposed to establish international expert committees for each of the above-mentioned interconnection, so Groups of Rapporteurs. The most active of the groups – the Group of Rapporteurs for the waterway Rhine – Main – Danube – began its work in 1964, to complete it in 1970 by presenting an economic study supporting the economic validity of the waterway connection. The through-navigation between the Rhine and Danube Rivers opened in September 1992. Its increasing volumes prove the group’s estimations correct and realistic. The coastal countries of the last interconnection have showed the least understanding for the goals set by the UNECE entities: their competent group of rapporteurs has not been appointed yet.

The D-O-E project remains an alive idea in UNECE. The so-called Blue Paper from 1998, which treats listing of norms and parameters of the main European waterways of class E (TRANS/SC.3.144), indicates the D-O-E canal as a ‘missing link’. Similarly, the document TRANS/SC3/2002/1 from 2002, concerning the crucial bottlenecks and missing links of the category E waterways, marks the part of missing links in Austria, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic with ‘the Connection Danube–Oder–Elbe (E 20 and E 30)’. 


The indirect, although quite obvious support of the D-O-E waterway project could be traced in the White Paper titled “European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide”. The Transport White Paper adopted by the European Commission on 12 September 2001. It recognises the great potential of inland navigation as an alternative transport mode for freight, in particular road transport, and consequently has a great interest in developing inland waterway infrastructure. It highly recommends to eliminate the bottlenecks of the network, reconstruct non-used waterways and built missing routes.

Naturally, the emphasis on better configuration of the European waterway network was clearly pronounced even in the admission protocol, on the base of which the Czech Republic entered the EU. As a matter of course, the document includes the D-O-E project into the perspective transport network of EU member countries.

Similarly, the prominent role of the D-O-E waterway was accentuated in the European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance (AGN). Prepared by an expert working group appointed by UNECE, it was enacted in Geneva on January 19, 1996. In the name of the Czech Republic it was signed in Helsinki on June 23, 1997, to come into operation on July 26, 1999 (Notification of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs n. 163/1999).

Hlavní evropské vodní cesty dle dohody AGN 

UN/ECE map of european waterway network of AGN agreement

Lastly, in the changes to the European Agreement on Main Inland Waterways of International Importance, adopted by the UNECE Working Party on Inland Water Transport on October 20, 2005, i.a. the article 2 was extended of the second paragraph, which suggests: 

"Contracting Parties are called upon to establish national action plans and/or bilateral or multilateral agreements, such as international treaties, guidelines, memoranda of understanding, joint studies or any other similar arrangements, aimed at elimination of existing bottlenecks and completion of missing links in the network of E waterways crossing the territories of countries concerned."

Last but not least, let us remind you that the D-O-E project is explicitly mentioned in the admission agreement between the Czech Republic and the European Union.