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ESO is established in November 1975 as a European organisation of national branche 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.


The highest governing body of ESO is the Council, consisting of people nominated by the member organisations.
The president of ESO is chosen by the Council. The president does not necessarily have to be a member of one of the member organisations, but preferably has a great affinity with the sector and its entrepreneurs.
Many council members have a seat in one or more of ESO’s commissions.

The Council meets regularly every two months in Brussels.


ESO’s second governing body is the board, existing of president, vice president, secretary general, director and treasurer. The position of vice president rotates every two years between the various countries from which the member organisations originate. The organisations in each country are led by a national vice-president who is also member of the board.


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 of Board and Council on various fields. Each commission is chaired by a Council member. 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 aforementioned director.

The commissions are, Infrastructure, Innovation and Enviroment, Market and Economy, Social and Education, Nautical-Technical.

Since early 2015 ESO has also a commission for tanker shipping and ADN. This commission also handles safety, GRTS and CDNI.