Papers Prepared and Conferences Organised by the WFD Navigation Task Group


When work is being carried out under the CIS process or when the European Commission consults on a particular issue which is of importance to the navigation sector, it has often proved useful for the Task Group to develop a ‘common position’, summarising the views of the sector.  The process of discussing the issues raised and agreeing a way forward through the Task Group has been very successful - both in raising awareness of various WFD-related issues within the sector, and in allowing any differences in views to be identified and resolved.  The sector has thus been able to prepare and present a single response to the Commission on a number of key WFD issues.


Amongst the discussion and position papers prepared in this way by the Task Group are the following:


The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Licensing in Coastal Water Bodies. Position Paper. January 2016


In April 2016, the European Commission’s Marine Team and their consultants ran a workshop in Brussels to explore the role of the licensing (i.e. consenting or authorisation) process in delivering ‘good environmental status’ under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Insofar as the MSFD is concerned, most navigation infrastructure-related activities and developments take place in coastal water bodies as defined under the EU Water Framework Directive*. They are therefore already covered by the requirements of the latter. This paper and the associated PowerPoint presentation highlight some of the issues requiring consideration when licensing navigation-related activities in coastal water bodies. They also stress the importance of avoiding unnecessary duplication and inconsistencies in the implementation of these two Directives. 


*Estuarine water bodies are not covered by the MSFD, only the WFD.


Sediment trend monitoring. Issues paper, March 2015


In early 2015, discussions took place within the CIS Chemicals Working Group about the possible use of sediment trend monitoring to inform decisions taken under the WFD. As this is an area in which members of the WFD Navigation Task Group have considerable experience, an issues paper was prepared and submitted to the European Commission by way of a follow up to the meeting. This paper highlights that great care is required in determining whether trend monitoring in sediment is likely to be representative in a particular water body; it also urges COM to ensure that any guidance properly reflects the potential problems associated with sediment monitoring in transitional and coastal waters.


Environmental flows as a tool to achieve the WFD objectives. Issues paper, August 2012 


Following on from the discussions leading to the publication of the Blueprint, the 2013-2015 CIS Work Programme included an activity to develop guidance on the application of e-flows to WFD surface water bodies, notably rivers. A paper – prepared by the WFD Navigation Task Group by way of a response to an early draft discussion paper on this topic – captured some of the issues associated with e-flows that are of relevance to the navigation sector.


'Blueprint to safeguard Europe's water resources’  Briefing Note, November 2012


The long-awaited 'Blueprint to safeguard Europe's water resources’ was published on November 14, 2012. This document focuses mainly on freshwater 'water scarcity and drought' issues. Whilst recommendations are made for awareness-raising about water consumption and a possible EU regulation for water re-use is suggested, two issues are of particular relevance to the navigation sector. The first is the acknowledgement that hydromorphological modification – including dams for navigation – is the most widespread pressure in 19 European Member States. The Blueprint emphasises that hydromorphological pressures must be reduced, for example by restoring river continuity. The second, related issue – which is presented in the context of over-abstraction stemming from over-allocation – is the proposal to introduce the concept of ecological flow. Ecological flow is of interest to the navigation sector because many rivers will also have 'minimum depth' and 'minimum flow' requirements to sustain navigation.  


The full text of the Blueprint is at:


The case for Europe-wide vs. River Basin-specific sediment EQS. Position paper, February 2011


For some time, the sector has been following discussions regarding the possible setting of EU-wide Environmental Quality Standards for sediment. This Navigation Task Group Position Paper, prepared in February 2011 draws the following conclusions:


-       Given the wording of the WFD and EQS Directives, the Task Group does not believe that there is either a specific requirement for generic European-wide sediment EQS or a role for the Commission to propose such standards.

-       Important differences between the characteristics and behaviour of water and sediment lead the Task Group to conclude that great care is required to identify situations in which sediment EQS are relevant.

-       High levels of natural diversity and variability between river basins and across Europe, combined with the various difficulties associated with collecting representative and relevant sediment samples, mean that it is impossible to set meaningful sediment EQS that can reasonably be applied at a Europe-wide scale.

-       Taking all of the above points into account, it is clear to the Navigation Task Group that there remain severe doubts – about the legal basis for setting European-wide sediment EQS, about their scientific justification, and about their workability in practice.


The Navigation Task Group does, however, support sediment sampling to be used as appropriate for trend monitoring, source identification and, in certain cases, the setting of locally-specific sediment standards at a catchment or river basin level to supplement water column EQS.


Sediment and suspended matter under the Water Framework Directive. Discussion Document, March 2010


Following a review of a number of published and draft documents developed under the CIS process (including those relating to quality standards for water and for sediment and biota), the Task Group identified a number of concerns relating to their consistency and interlinking. The Group therefore made several practical recommendations, including: the need for the normalisation of concentrations of suspended particular matter in the water column of fresh water and marine water respectively, the need to clarify the concept of ‘equivalence of standards’ and the need for sediment EQS to be dealt with under the subsidiarity principle. The Group also recommended that sediment monitoring should be handled by Member States, where appropriate on a River Basin scale.


Overlap between the EU Water Framework Directive and the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive in Coastal Waters. Letter to Water and Marine Directors, March 2010


The Navigation Task Group together with the Marine Strategy Navigation Group identified a potentially significant issue with regard to the area of overlap between the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy) in coastal water bodies, as defined under the WFD. The Navigation Groups therefore requested Water Directors and Marine Directors to help avoid potentially significant adverse economic and commercial consequences by taking steps to avoid unnecessary duplication in this area of physical overlap between the two Directives.


Potential implications of climate change for inland and maritime navigation and for seaports. Briefing note, June 2009


In order to assist the CIS drafting group preparing the Guidance document N°24 River Basin Management in a Changing Climate, the Task Group prepared and endorsed a short briefing paper on climate change. This paper summarised some of the potential implications of climate change for inland and maritime navigation and for seaports and highlighted some potentially suitable (although not universally applicable) climate change adaptation measures.


Navigation as a water use or a water service?  Position Paper, November 2008 


In this position paper, the Task Group supports the interpretation of the majority of EU Member States in arguing that navigation should be considered a water use, but not a water service insofar as the requirements of Article 9 of the WFD are concerned.


Relationship between the EU Water Framework Directive and EU Maritime Policy.  Position Paper, June 2007 


Since the preparation of this position paper, European Parliament and Council agreed on the final text of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.  In this 2008 agreed text, many of the Task Group’s concerns about the overlap between the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) were addressed. The MSFD will now apply in WFD coastal water bodies only in respect of cetaceans, litter, noise and other aspects not already covered by the WFD. However, the practical issues for sectors such as navigation which operate across the interface between the two Directives remain (i.e. the need to deal with two different objectives with associated sets of measures contained in two different plans).


EU Water Framework Directive Common Implementation Strategy, Hydromorphology Activity.  Statement prepared by PIANC, CEDA, ESPO, EFIP, INE, EuDA, IADC, EURMIG and EBU, October 2005


This statement was prepared in order to inform the initial debate about the scope of work to be tackled by the CIS Hydromorphology activity.  In summary, the Task Group statement confirmed that hydromorphology is a vital issue for navigation and advocated that: other relevant Directorates (e.g. DG Transport) should be involved in the activity; the work of international conventions should be acknowledged; sediment management should be included in the scope of work; and maximum use should be made of the wealth of already existing experience.


The final outputs of the CIS Hydro-morphology – a policy paper, a technical paper and a series of case studies – are all available on the Commission’s WFD CIRCA website. 


Potential implications for navigation (including ports, harbours, waterways and dredging) of EU Water Framework Directive Articles 16(1) and 16(7). 

Discussion document, prepared in November 2004. 


This paper discussed the various concerns of the Task Group associations with regard to the then evolving priority substances daughter Directive.  The final text of this ‘environmental quality standards’ Directive was eventually adopted in October 2008 with subsequent publication anticipated in the Official Journal.  The agreed ‘compromise text’ of the EQS Directive included a clear reference to the exemption provisions in Article 4 of the original WFD, and this provides some level of reassurance to the sector.  However, the Task Group still has a number of concerns about the Directive - not least the lack of a definition of ‘losses’ (discharges, emissions and losses’) and various questions about the scientific validity of the ‘total water quality’ measurement.  See the Task Group minutes accessible from the bottom of the Introductory page for more information on the status of the daughter Directive and the Group’s outstanding concerns.


The EU Water Framework Directive.  Position paper, 2004


This position paper, the first prepared by the Task Group highlighted some of the key issues as perceived by the newly-formed Navigation Task Group.  Several years later, some of the questions have been resolved whilst others still require attention.


Joint Statement on Guiding Principles for the Development of Inland Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Danube River Basin, 2007


On behalf of the WFD Navigation Task Group, PIANC participated in the preparation of the Joint Statement on Guiding Principles for the Development of Inland Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Danube River Basin. This joint statement was the outcome of an interdisciplinary process facilitated by the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube, the Danube (Navigation) Commission and the International Commission for the Save River Basin.  Amongst other things, it discussed how sustainable navigation development objectives can be achieved at the same time as meeting WFD requirements.


More recently, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) has co-ordinated the production of a Manual of Good Practices in Sustainable Waterway Planning. This document, which is the result of a consultative process between waterway operators and managers, and environmental organisations, provides guidelines for planning waterway development projects that are compatible with environmental protection requirements, creating a win-win harmony.



Conferences & Workshops organised by WFD Navigation Task Group



The WFD Navigation Task Group has also organised a number of international conferences and workshops, aimed at raising awareness of the WFD and facilitating informed discussion of some of the key challenges it poses for the navigation sector. The presentations, papers and conclusions are available by clicking on the relevant event below:


HMWB designation of navigable water bodies: Article 4(3): Workshop and discussion group presentations (22 June 2007)


·         International workshop designed to explore the approaches being taken by different Member States to the application of the WFD Article 4(3) ‘tests’ used to identify heavily modified water bodies.  June 2007. Workshop outcomes: please click here.



Navigation and the EU Water Framework Directive: international conference hosted by PIANC in Brussels on January 31, 2007.

As part of this conference, a series of mini-workshops were also organised on sediment management, maritime policy and hydro-morphology.



Navigating the EU Water Framework Directive: international conference hosted by PIANC in Brussels on October 30, 2003





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