Inland Shipping

Inland shipping as a response to the growth in container flow

The expectation is that container transport to and from the mainport of Rotterdam will grow significantly over the next 20 years. If this growth is accommodated by road transport, our roads will become completely blocked. There is a lot of unused capacity in the system of inland waterways and inland shipping is capable of transporting large volumes. Compared to transport by lorry or plane, inland shipping produces far less CO2. Moreover, inland shipping accidents are rare.

Inland shipping will thus have to make a considerable contribution to keeping the mainport accessible. For that reason, the Dutch government is encouraging the transport of goods on inland waterways in order to keep the mainport accessible. In this regard, the preconditions include that the inland shipping fleet becomes cleaner and that the transport product, which comprises inland shipping, becomes more reliable.

Other preconditions are that inland shipping becomes cleaner and that the current safety level is at least maintained if not improved.

Inland shipping as part of the logistics chain

It is important that inland shipping entrepreneurs cooperate with other logistics parties (shippers, road hauliers, inland ports, terminal operators) in order to become an integrated part of the chain. This chain must be organised in a manner that ensures an optimum use of the strengths of inland shipping: large volumes of containers, no problems with congestion and low CO2 emissions.

More stringent European standards for engines
New inland shipping engines must meet certain emissions requirements. These international agreements will be tightened up within the EU.

The Blue Road
Dutch inland shipping has an overarching brand: The Blue Road (in Dutch). The inland shipping sector can use the logo to indicate that it makes use of sustainable transport by water.

Environmental label for inland shipping vessels
The Green Award certificate is an environmental label for inland vessels. The aim of this label is to stimulate clean inland shipping and to make clean vessels recognisable. To make obtaining a Green Award certificate attractive to skippers, ports are considering giving discounts on port fees to clean inland vessels that have a Green Award certificate.

Reliable and safe waterways

Waterways policy
The Dutch government is investing in good waterways. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is responsible for constructing and maintaining national waterways. Rijkswaterstaat (the executive arm of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Managent manages the national waterways network.

Maintenance / preservation
The management and maintenance of waterways is focused on managing and preserving functionality in order to facilitate safe transport on water. In this regard, the emphasis is on:

  • maintaining existing waterways;
  • getting maintenance work up to date;
  • operating locks and bridges;
  • improving safety on waterways.

The investments in waterways are mainly aimed at maintaining existing routes. Locks and bridges must continue to work properly. Waterways must be dredged so that they remain passable for ever larger ships. The priority given to different types of maintenance work depends on the economic importance of the transport function and the risks that the locks and other structures pose in terms of circulation.

Construction (capacity expansion)
In addition to maintaining waterways, the state is acting in anticipation of a future growth in the flow of goods and the capacity problems that will consequently arise. Though construction projects, the capacity of important waterways, locks, bridges and berths is being selectively expanded to make reliable and safe transport on waterways possible in the future as well. The construction projects are programmed in the Infrastructure, Spatial Planning & Transport Multi-year Programme (MIRT) (in Dutch).

Communication and information system for safe inland navigation
To improve the safety of inland navigation, over the past years the government has invested in a communication and information system for inland navigation: River Information Services (RIS) (in Dutch).

With RIS, information can be shared throughout the whole of Europe in a standardised manner. In addition, traffic information is made available to ships in a standardised format. When commencing a trip, skippers register with the RIS server to provide information about the route, the ship and the cargo. This enables Rijkswaterstaat, as well as traffic management centres in other countries, to guide traffic on (Dutch) waterways more appropriately. In addition, the information allows shippers, terminal operators and skippers to work more efficiently.

Within the framework of the RIS system, AIS (Automatic Information System) (in Dutch) transponders have been introduced on board ships. These transponders automatically send information about the position and the name of the ship. The traffic management centre thus knows precisely where ships are. AIS gives skippers a better picture of shipping traffic, which is conducive to safe navigation. In addition, position information is of importance for properly planning the logistics process and therefore important to logistics services providers.

Improving inland ports
Inland ports are an important link in the chain for the transport of goods on waterways. Such ports provide locations for businesses and they constitute junctions in the storage and transhipment of goods, by road and rail, for example.
The Dutch government believes it is important for inland ports to be well maintained and improved. Municipalities, provinces, interest groups and the business community are being encouraged to improve inland ports. In this regard, the temporary “Inland Navigation Quick Wins” scheme provides incentives.

Requirements for inland navigation

The Dutch government sets requirements for the construction, fixtures and fittings, and equipment of inland shipping vessels. This requirements are focused on maximum safety and creating the least possible burden on the environment.

The most important of these requirements are:

  • Requirements for inland shipping vessels
    Ships that fall under the Dutch Inland Shipping Act and that are used for the transport of goods or passengers on inland waterways must meet the requirements set down in the Act.
  • The technical requirements for the construction, fixtures and fittings, and equipment of inland shipping vessels are set down in a European directive and in the Regulations for the Investigation of Ships on the Rhine (ROSR). These two similar regulations describe, for instance, the sailing features which must be satisfied and how strong the hull of a ship must be.
  • Technical inspection of inland shipping vessels
    Before a ship is permitted to transport goods or passengers, it must undergo a technical inspection to obtain a certificate. In this regard, ship owners may themselves choose the EU Member State in which they would like to have the ship certified. They may also choose for Switzerland.

Rotterdam mainport development

The port of Rotterdam makes a significant contribution to the Dutch economy. The Rotterdam Mainport Development Project (PMR) is aimed at ensuring that the port area has the space to grow and, moreover, that it becomes more liveable.
The port of Rotterdam plays an essential role in the transport of goods which is a major pillar of the Dutch economy.

In the coalition agreement, the cabinet firmly supported the further development of the port and industrial area through the construction of a new port area (Maasvlakte II) together with the related environmental compensation.

Rotterdam is Europe’s most important port. Over 7% of what we all earn together is produced in this area. The port of Rotterdam is of particularly great importance to the transport, logistics, energy and petrochemical sectors, in both regional and national terms. However, in the years ahead, businesses will have virtually no room left for expansion in the existing port and industrial area. And without more room, it will be impossible for Rotterdam to successfully compete with other ports, within and outside Europe.

The Dutch government has therefore decided to strengthen the mainport of Rotterdam by constructing a new port area. At the same time, the quality of life in the Rhine Estuary region will be improved. This is the double goal of the Rotterdam Mainport Development Project.