Over half the goods handled in the Dutch ports arrive or depart via the inland waterways of the Netherlands, of which the Rhine is the most important. At Lobith, on the Dutch border, more than 160,000 vessels pass each year.
Some kilometres after the Rhine enters the Netherlands from Germany at Lobith, it forks into the Lower Rhine and the Waal, of which the Waal river is the most important for shipping. The Amsterdam-Rhine canal connects the Waal with the North Sea canal ports.
Depth and breadth
In conformity with international agreements, the Dutch rivers are 150 m wide and have a minimum depth (at extremely low water levels) of 2.50 m. The buoys mark depths of up to 3.50 m. The responsibility for ensuring a constant depth of the rivers has been entrusted tot the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, a branch of the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management.
Plans have been made to widen the Waal to 1.70 m. and to increase its depth to 2.80 m over the coming years. This means that in the future, four-barge push tow units will be able to carry almost 1,000 more tons of cargo. It will also make it possible to navigate the Waal with sis-barge units (length: 269 m) almost year round, instead of only 30% of the time as is now the case.
The Waal river is entirely free of locks; the Lower Rhine has three locks over a distance of 50 km.
At points where the risk of collision is high, particularly where the fairways flow into one another, the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management has established Traffic Control Posts. Along the Waal, such posts have been set up at Tiel and at Nijmegen. These Traffic Posts are manned 24 hours a day by traffic controllers who constantly monitor all movement via radar images on the sections of the river under radar surveillance. Via the shipping traffic radio telephone, the traffic controllers keep bargement informed about the position of other vessels. They can also advice bargemen on their speed, or the possibility of overtaking other vessels. If necessary, a bargeman can ask to be 'talked through' a bend or a busy section. Radar surveillance is currently in place at the Pannerdensche Kop, the roadstead of Nijmegen, the busy mouths of the Maas-Waal canal (at Weurt) and the Amsterdam-Rhine canal (at Tiel) -and - since 1997 - in the bend of St. Andries. New posts are projected for 1998 in the Waal turnings at Hulhuizen, Haalderen and Erlecom.
The Traffic Posts are supported by the patrol boats of the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management. These provide fast information and lend assistance in conditions of poor visibility, low water levels and cases of emergency.
The Traffic Posts at Nijmegen and Tiel are equipped with a socalled Information Processing System (in Dutch, IVS), a computer system with information about the current position of a vessel, its dimensions and its cargo. During collisions, the possible vessels involved are immediately identifiable, which allows the police, fire department and the directorate-general for Public Works and Water Management to respond quickly and adequately. In principle, a bargeman need report to the IVS only once. His particulars 'sail' with him, even into Germany as the Dutch IVS is linked to the German Melde und Informationssystem Binnenschiffart.
Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management Department for the East Netherlands
6800 ED Arnhem
Tel. 026 368 89 11
Fax 026 363 48 97