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November 1975 ESO was established as a European organisation of national branch organisations for independant IWT entrepreneurs, seated in Brussels. Members of ESO are these national organisations, originating from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland.
From the UK an organisation has acceded as an associated member.
In February 2018 ESO has been legally converted to non-profit association (VZW) under Belgian law. Registration number 0690 929 119.

General Assembly

The highest governing body of ESO is the General Assembly (GA), consisting of mandated representants nominated by the member organisations.
The GA nominates the president of ESO , as well as the secretary general, the treasurer and the board. These people preferably have a great affinity with the sector and its entrepreneurs.
The GA meets in Brussels.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors has general authority regarding the management and the representation of the organisation.
Members of the board of directors are nominated by the GA.

Policy Commissions

To make better use of the expertise of organisations and their members ESO has established policy commissions. These commissions have the task of preparing ESO’s policy and advising the board on various fields. The commissions can be extended with outside experts when the council approves. The functioning and the coordination of the commissions as a whole is the task of the director.

The commissions are, Infrastructure, Innovation & Greening, Market & Economy, Social & Education, Nautical-Technical.
Since 2015 a commission for tanker shipping and ADN was established. This commission also handles safety, GRTS and CDNI.