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 How can you receive your publications regularly?
Simply leave a message on the messaging system of the relevant VNF department for the business sector required (river tourism, goods transport, environment, economic analysis, management of public river property, communication,...)

 What are the legislative texts governing the canals managed by VNF?
These texts may be consulted in the ¿Get to know/texts¿ section.
VNF¿s legal department is at your disposal for any further information you may require

 How big is the French waterway network?
The French natural and artificial waterway network, the longest in Europe, extends over some 8,500 km. The major waterways - suitable for boats of over a thousand metric tons - represent nearly 20% of the network. Rivers and canals are provided with more than 2,000 civil engineering works, including dams, locks, canal bridges and tunnels.

 Who manages the waterway network?
Navigable rivers and canals are mainly managed by Voies Navigables de France, a public waterways authority which oversees 6,700 km of the network.
Around 700 km of the network are directly managed by the State or its autonomous ports.
The rest is managed by the territorial authorities (France's regions and départements): the water courses and canals of Brittany, for example, where the region benefited from the transfer of skills under the first decentralisation laws of 1983, and entrusted management of the waterways to departments or syndicates made up of the local authorities.

 What is the purpose of the waterways?
Rivers and canals are not only thoroughfares for trade and tourism, but also form a large part of the hydrological network. This network is equipped with navigation constructions for controlling the water zones, ensuring that they
are navigable and that water can be put to various uses. These facilities are thus a vital element in providing water to communities, agriculture and industry. 
As a generator of renewable energy, waterways also contribute to France's power production by means of the big hydroelectric dams on the Rhine and the Rhone, and mini power stations set up on the falling water of navigation dams. They contribute to the natural beauty of the countryside they pass through, and are the setting and inspiration for an increasingly varied range of leisure and tourist activities that include fishing, water sports and walking, using tracks and towpaths.

 Globally speaking, what role do waterways play in regional development?
From time immemorial, rivers - as a method of transport, water reserve and source of energy - have
attracted agricultural, craft and industrial activities, and shaped the course of urbanisation. Now, with the growth of tourism and leisure and increasing concern for the environment, the many uses of watercourses are more than ever a tool for developing the regions, from both the rural and urban points of view. As a transport infrastructure, they provide routes that respect the environment and go right to the centres of cities, thus helping to reduce congestion on the roads, while new economic activities are springing up around trade ports and marinas. Apart from navigation, the regulation of watercourses means better hydraulic control, protection of the environment and the enhancement of landscapes and heritage sites. The development of waterways and their surroundings is thus a way of responding to the focal concerns of local councils - i.e. transport, economic development, environmental protection and improvement of the living environment - and public awareness. 88% of people of France think that the fluvial domain is a vital part of the country's cultural heritage, and integrates well into the countryside.

 Will decentralisation have an impact on the waterway sector?
The promulgation on 30 July this year of the law on the prevention of major risks (act no. 2003-633) opens up a new field for decentralisation in the waterways sector. The new measures stipulate that regions and groupings of regions and territorial authorities can make use, on a voluntary basis, of either a transfer of ownership of the public waterway domain, or experimental management for a maximum period of 6 years (without a transfer of ownership).
These decentralisation measures exclude waterways of national interest, notably those used for fluvial transport. A State Council order will shortly be dealing with the list of these waterways. The new law opens up the possibility for territorial authorities to try out experimental management, or a transfer of ownership if they feel ready for it. The law also makes it possible for regions to call on the national authority of the Voies navigables de France to help in implementing the experiment. 

 Will decentralisation have an impact on the waterway sector?
The promulgation on 30 July this year of the law on the prevention of major risks (act no. 2003-633) opens up a new field for decentralisation in the waterways sector. The new measures stipulate that regions and groupings of regions and territorial authorities can make use, on a voluntary basis, of either a transfer of ownership of the public waterway domain, or experimental management for a maximum period of 6 years (without a transfer of ownership).
These decentralisation measures exclude waterways of national interest, notably those used for fluvial transport. A State Council order will shortly be dealing with the list of these waterways. The new law opens up the possibility for territorial authorities to try out experimental management, or a transfer of ownership if they feel ready for it. The law also makes it possible for regions to call on the national authority of the Voies Navigables de France to help in implementing the experiment. 

 Who is responsible for France's fluvial policy?
Just like other transport infrastructures, waterways depend on the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transports, Housing, Tourism and Sea Affairs, which sets the guidelines and defines the fluvial policy for France. This forms a natural part of not only the general transport policy, but also regional and environmental development policies.

 What are the missions of Voies Navigables de France?
The purpose of the VNF, as a public authority with an industrial and commercial character under the aegis of the Ministry for Transport, is to manage, operate, modernise and develop the 6,700 km of navigable rivers and canals in France. It promotes these waterway activities and federates initiatives in favour of fluvial transport and tourism. It
exploits and enhances the value of a public domain of nearly 80,000 hectares. In addition, it may invest in operations designed to enhance waterways through specific legal arrangements.

 How is VNF's waterway management organised?
In order to carry out its missions throughout the whole of France, VNF has 17 (inter) regional departments and local branches. These are made up of navigation departments (or divisions at département-level of the Equipment, the government department responsible for roads and maintenance), which manage the waterways on behalf of the authority. In addition, they carry out policing missions on behalf of the State. The head office in Béthune (Pas-de-Calais) provides the driving force for the authority's strategy, and coordinates the actions of the 5,000 authority agents and State departments that work for it.

 What budget does the VNF have available to fulfil its missions?

More informations



 What are the territorial committees?
The territorial committees, set up by constitutive decree of the Authority, are bodies for consultation and dialogue that bring together users (transporters, tourism operators, associations for water sports, fishing and environmental protection, etc.) and all the institutions and city councils concerned by the various functions of waterways (transport, environment, agriculture, industry, regional development, and so on). They are organised at a regional or interregional level and act as platforms for exchange, enabling the various interests linked to the network to come together. They may consist of several sub-committees, and study projects dedicated to specific topics, such as exploitation, development and the environment. They are chaired by local elected representatives and are a vital tool in implementing territorial policies.

 What powers do user committees have?
These are committees made up of fluvial transporters (transport and tourism) and shippers. They deal with the state of the network, navigability and operating conditions. They make real consultation possible as regards navigation schedules (lock opening), unemployment periods (interruption of the network for building work on navigation structures) and improving the service for users (access to new information systems, comfort facilities, and so on). They are set up in every navigation basin, and enable an overview of users' needs to be taken realistically into account in the implementation of maintenance, operating and network modernisation policies.

 What role do the local authorities play in waterway management and maintenance?
These play a major role, and participate fully in developing the network and its associated activities. First and foremost, as regards the network, the "waterway" regions contribute towards financing renovation and modernisation work through plan contracts with the State, and provide between 30% and 50% of investments, particularly for tourist waterways. As well as these CPERs (State/region plan contracts), there are large-scale co-financed programmes like the development of the Oise, in which the département councils also participate. In addition, tourist and leisure facilities are for the most part covered by the authorities (mooring areas, path and heritage signage, cycle tracks, greenways, etc.). Given the advantages for local economies, the development of fluvial transport, like the opening of new container lines, receives financial support from certain regions, while regional/département tourism committees take over part of the promotion for fluvial tourism.

 What are the principal actions and work carried out by VNF on the waterway network?
As has always been the case, the main priority is to ensure that the major waterways used for transporting goods are reliable and modern. These include the main thoroughfares of the Seine and the Oise (representing an investment of Euros 200 M over seven years), and the Canal Dunkerque-Escault Canal, which together with the Oise makes up the north and south sectors of the Seine-North Europe major Canal project. VNF also regularly carries out work on the minor waterways, designed more for tourism, notably to do with safety, the automation of navigation constructions, and the renovation of structures and dykes.

 Is decentralisation going to bring about major changes in waterway management?
Under the legislation on major risks promulgated in July of this year, France's regions could obtain management of waterways that are not considered of national interest (in other words, the network used for goods transport). They could start out by introducing experimental management, and call in the VNF. The public authority would then become a service operator for the region. This would involve a real cultural revolution, and would be a remarkable challenge. VNF could contribute its knowledge of the network, its expertise and its innovative and organisational skills to the regions that apply for aid. It would provide coherent hydraulic management and the effective development of fluvial tourist activities. 

 How do VNF and local authorities work together on more effective flood management?
It is up to the local residents - owners and local authorities - to protect themselves from water action and thus flooding. This is why VNF and the authorities tackle all modernisation and reconstruction projects together, and impact and optimisation studies relating to the various functions of constructions - navigation, reservoirs, nautical activities, etc.- are carried out as a joint effort. In this way, studies were undertaken on additional digging in the Oise and the arm of the Meuse to increase the outflow capacity before any overflowing takes place. These actions are part of the reconstruction programme involving the 147 manual dams still operating, and whose rebuilding is a priority given their state of wear and tear. Here again, the participation of local authorities is of vital importance. 

 What are the VNF's obligations as regards dredging?
VNF has no obligations apart from maintaining the navigable channel in a state that ensures sufficient draught for boats. However, suspended matter produced by the erosion of banks or coming from other sources is deposited everywhere, even in small river arms used for leisure purposes. As VNF's financial means do not permit it to go beyond its missions and obligations, it is up to the waterway users and polluters to remove such deposits, although the authority can give advice on the methods to be used in preference. For example, to combat the proliferation of weed, accelerated by the concentration of nitrates and phosphates resulting from this summer, the specialists have recommended uprooting rather than cutting it (with the risk of dissemination) or using bacterial treatment (not very effective on open water sheets).
In addition, through its ISO 14001 certification approach, VNF works with the Ministry for Ecology and the State departments on what to do with sludge dredged from historical industrial sites, to avoid the impossibility later on of dragging certain rivers with sediment severely contaminated by heavy metals or hydrocarbons.

 Who is responsible for removing wrecks?
Owners are responsible for removing wrecks. Once identification has been made, it is then necessary to remind the owner of this obligation by means of a formal notice. If no identification is possible, VNF can remove the wreck, at the request of the Prefet and with no need for prior notice, but only in the event of "imminent danger." With barges abandoned by their owners and deserted residence boats, there are more wrecks along the banks than the VNF is able to deal with. Here the same process tends to take place as with unauthorised waste dumps: the first occasion engenders further dumpings. Animating riverbanks, maintaining plantations and encouraging leisure activities are effective means for preventing this kind of abuse.



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