The technical requirements for inland waterway vessels are soon to be standardised across the whole of Europe. For users of inland waterways in the EU, this brings an end to legal inequality due to the different technical standards in place on the Rhine, at the same time addressing the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel for waterways.
Under the Dutch EU Presidency, on 17 March the Council reached an informal deal with the European Parliament on the revision of the directive concerning the technical requirements for inland waterway vessels. The revised draft directive means that it will be possible to refer directly to the technical standards drawn up by the CESNI (Comité Européen pour l’Élaboration de Standards dans le Domaine de Navigation Intérieure) Comité which was established under the auspices of the Central Commission for navigation of the Rhine (CCR) on 3 June 2015. Inland water vessels that want to obtain an EU inland navigation certificate and use Europe’s inland waterways will have to comply with these technical requirements.
The CESNI technical standards will not only be incorporated into EU legislation, but will also become applicable on the Rhine, thereby harmonising technical requirements for inland waterway vessels within Europe. In the current situation, both the EU and the CCR apply their own technical requirements, which are virtually identical in terms of content but differ as regards certain components. This results in legal uncertainty for the inland navigation sector. CESNI adopted a first version of the technical standard on 26 November 2015. The standard comprises detailed specifications ranging from provisions regarding shipbuilding and equipment to provisions applicable to craft operating on liquefied natural gas (LNG). The requirements relating to LNG, which did not exist before, will facilitate the use of this alternative fuel in inland navigation.
The revised technical directive is part of a broader package of measures aimed at promoting the use of Europe’s inland waterways (NAIADES II). The Dutch EU Presidency will present the agreed text to the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) for approval on 23 March.
CCR acknowledged in May 2011 that LNG was extending its realm of adoption as a road and maritime shipping fuel into the area of inland navigation. To be a useful contributor towards meeting key overall objectives in transport and environmental policy such as improvement of air quality, minimisation of greenhouse gas emissions and increased use of domestically produced biofuels, CCR argued that LNG had to be safe and fully combusted. At that time CCR stated in a press release (CC/CP (11) 15 ):
“CCR is confident that, as was the case for past innovations that represented a paradigm shift in inland navigation in Europe, the demands for economic viability on the one hand and for safety on the other can be reconciled.”
Major progress has been made in the ensuing years, including the establishing by WPCI of a website that focuses on the use of LNG as a marine fuel.
In December 2015, CCR released Edition 1 of its Standard for a checklist for the bunkering of liquefied natural gas (LNG): tanker to ship, based on a WPCI checklist.
The working group WPCI (World Ports Climate Initiative) of the AIPH (International Association of Ports and Harbors) has three lists drawn up for the bunkering of liquefied natural gas (bunkering tanker to ship, ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore) by ships using LNG for their propulsion. These lists are already used in many ports, notably Rotterdam and Antwerp. CCR sought to harmonise closely with these processes and has, in cooperation with the AIPH, modified the list for bunkering between tanker and ship to align them to the context and regulations of the Rhine. This was achieved without affect to the structure, the concepts and the safety of the original list.
WPCI states that although Truck-to-Ship transfer (TTS) is the most frequently used at the moment, Ship-to-Ship (STS) bunkering is generally considered the most favourable option for LNG bunkering, especially for ships with a short port turnaround time. STS bunkering does not generally interfere with cargo operation and passenger movement.
(Sources: AIPH, WPCI, CCR, Goverment of the Netherlands)