30 November, 2023
Dessislava Pencheva (photo: Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry)

An interview with the expert of the Bulgarian-Romanian chamber of commerce and industry on the results of the project DANTE and on the need for easing of ship navigation on the great European river

Vladimir Mitev

Dessislva Pencheva is the administrative manager of the project ”DANTE – improving the administrative procedures and processes related to the Danube waterway transport“. Dessislava Pencheva is part of the team of the Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for around 16 years since its foundation. She speaks Romanian, English and Russian language. She has graduated from the Academy of Economy in Svishtov.

This article was published on 9 July 2019 on the site of the Bulgarian newspaper ”Word”.

What are the goals of the project DANTA? Which are its partners in Bulgaria and Romania? How has the Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry contributed to the realisation of the project?

DANTE is the project, whose realisation would have to lead to a better management of the river Danube from the standing poing of the harmonisation of the administrative rules and the legislation along the whole riverway, including of the the navigable tributaries of the river.

This project has been realised by a wide consortium, comprised of 16 basic and 12 ascoiated strategic partners, among which the Danubean Commission, state institutions, ship navigators’ associations, port authorities, expeditors, transporters and non-governmental organisations from 10 European countries. Bulgaria is represented by the Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry with Bulmarket DM Ltd. as an associated partner. From Romania participate the Ministry of Transport, the Association of the owners of river ships and port operators, Pro Danube Romania, the Port Business Association Constanta, and associated partners are the Union of the internal ports of Romania and Danube Cruises Romania Srl.

In the beginning of the project we said at our very admission to it that we will do everything possible that the stakeholders from Bulgaria participate actively in the protest of elimination of the administrative barriers. Now, in the end of the project, we see that we are a recognisable partner both for the institutions and from the ship owners and port operators. We built mutual trust and the various participants in ship navigation look for us, in order to lay the problems they face.

What makes necessary “the abolition of the administrative barriers” on the river Danube?

The project is subordinated to the concept “One and the same river – one and the same rules”, which is shared by Pro Danube International (a network of private companies, which encourages better infrastructure and services and a more intensive usage of the waterway of the Danube in accordance with the ecological standards – note of the editor). The analysis, which was made in its first stage, showed that a lot of time is wasted in filling-in of documents (altogether 77 different forms from the beginning until the end of the river), and also on expenditures, because of the different taxes on services in the separate countries. All that not only slows the ship inspections, but also the crews and the transported goods have to wait unnecessary and the business wastes money. The goal is that a transfer takes place from the burdensome documentation, which is specific for every country, to the digital processing of unified documents at the first and the last port of the ship’s route.

It is true that there is an electronic system for document processing, which should ease the burden for the crews and the business. It presupposes that a piece of information, which is sent at the departure of the ship, should reach any port the ship is going to stop at. But this system has drawbacks and often duplication of documents on paper is necessary.

An analysis of the situation in each of the ten Danubean countries was made. As part of national roundtables in six of these countries the business put forward its problems before the institutions. 14 national work discussions in Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia gathered altogether 335 representatives of the state organs and the sector, which discussed and searched for variants to overcome the unnecessary administrative weight before the internal waterway transport.

We agreed to apply solutions and to help in the development of the forms, which should replace gradually all the required documents along the Danube’s waterway. These three unified forms were discussed by the business and the institutions in the separate states. In their turn, they made comments and gave recommendations, after which the documents were redefines. Our role was to spread those documents to a large number of stakeholders and in the end we reached a maximal number of river users in all the countries.

To what extend is this unification of rules for ship navigation accomplished today?

The first big success of DANTE is that it gathered on one place the private sector with the representatives of the state institutions, which are responsible for ship navigation. During the few round tables, which I mentioned, it was decided that an online instrument be created, through which signals for barriers before ship navigation or for sharing of good practices. Over 250 alerts for different administrative procedures, which create barriers for ship navigation, have been sent. These are alerts for real obstacles before the accomplishment of the everyday activities in various sectors of the economic activities along the river.

The international crew categorised the sent signal according to the five thematic areas of DANTE: border politce, fiscal and customs services, authorities in navigation and traffic control, port auhtorities/administrations, water and channel administrations; other organs for imposing of barriers (e.g. health control, disasters management, etc.). These signals were analysed.

In October 2018 during the Vienna Business Talks the president of Pro Danube International and manager of the project DANTE – Manfred Seitz and Theresia Hacksteiner (European Barge Union) handed over a declaration, which summarized the demands on behalf of the business for loosening of the procedures on the internal waterways of the Danube. On 3 December 2018 the document was reviewed in the European Commission and became the base for its decisions on the internal waterway transport. The Commission has officially approved the three forms DAVID, which have to start being applied first in some Danubean countries in the end of 2020.

The unification of the regulations on ship navigation along the Danube has been one of the goals of the Danube Commission ever since its establishment. In this regard it has issued ”recommendations on unification of rules” in customs and sanitary control on the Danube and rules for river surveillance on the Danube. What role do these documents and the Danube Commission itself play for the unification of legal regimes for ship navigation?

We focused the efforts of DANTE’s team towards the real business the people who undergo the various regulatory regimes. The discussions in the institutions on national and international level are incomplete, if those who “make a living” from the river are not included.

The platform I mentioned and the online instrument for report of irregularities (and good practices) are accessible to the representatives of the sector through the internet page of Pro Danube International (www.prodanube.eu). It will remain active after the official end of the project. The representatives of the sector will be able to signal for administrative barriers before the river’s users. At the same time it is difficult to foresee how much time will be necessary in order to harmonise the bureaucratic procedures at transnational level. The first steps, evidently, are made.

In the context of what you shared so far, how did the project DANTE contribute for the achievement of its stated goals? What follows with regard to the legal regimes on ship navigation after the project is over?

The initiative of Pro Danube International The Green Deal for Danube River Transport“ and the gathered information in this project allowed for the creation of a few documents. „The Danube IWT Administration Strategy and Action Plan“ is probably the most significant result of DANTE and could be viewed as the basic document with proposed meaningful solutions for overcoming of the administrative drawbacks in the whole region.

It contains the reported administrative barriers and procedures on the Danube and its tributaries, an in-depth analysis of the European legal framework, which regulates the water transport and last but not least, concrete measures and a realistic time frame for the overcoming of these bureaucratic procedures, which impede the development of the inland waterway transport in its full potential.

During the final event of the project on behalf of the Danube Commission possible scenarios were presented, so that it would be guaranteed that DANTE will continue to give results even after the official end of the project. It will continue to exist in a bit more different form so that its basic goal is accomplished – namely, the elimination of all the aspects, which impede the development of the internal waterways transport as a safe alternative of the autmobile, railway and air transport. It is expected that this will be realised through an agreement for supply of non-reimbursable funds, signed between the GD “Mobility and transport” (the European Commission” and the Danube Commission.

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