Mandatory use?

There is currently no European obligation to use AIS. Nevertheless, there are indications that such an obligation is on its way. The Commission for Navigation on the Rhine has already recognised types and installers.

What is Europe’s standpoint?

In 2005 the European Union issued a directive on harmonised River Information Services (RIS) on the EU’s inland waterways. These RIS services comprise a package of electronic services to streamline the exchange of information between ship and shore. River Information Services allows information between and about ships, such as their cargo and route, to be shared in a standardized manner across the whole of Europe. This helps inland shipping traffic throughout Europe to proceed more safely, efficiently and smoothly.

The European directive imposes no formal obligation to implement AIS. However, it does stipulate that member states must use transponders that comply with the Inland AIS standard if they implement automatic reporting of vessels on their fairway network. In the meantime the European Union has published technical specifications for Inland AIS – the system that is used for inland shipping.

Navigation on the Rhine

Like the European Commission, the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine (CCR) does not currently enforce inland ships to use AIS on board. Changes will be implemented no earlier than 31 March 2011.

The CCR has approved a very important protocol (Protocol 24 document only available in Durch, French and German) for the use of AIS. It states that entrepreneurs introducing AIS must adhere to strict criteria. These criteria govern the acquisition, installation and use of the devices. Since 1 April 2008 only AIS devices that adhere to the test standard may be built-in. The installers must also be pre-approved by a competent authority.


Antwerp 1 January 2012

The Antwerp Port Authority is introducing the AIS system for inland shipping on 1 January 2012. Its use is obligatory in the whole port area. ‘Inland AIS provides a win-win situation for all concerned,’ says Pascale Pasmans. ‘The inland vessels can navigate more safely, and port services that support the ships can operate more effectively.’

‘AIS will definitely improve port safety. With the AIS data from inland vessels we can direct traffic flow better and safer. We can already do that now with the information from seagoing ships, all of which have AIS. The information we receive via AIS will also help us to make better use of the infrastructure. We can more efficiently manage berths and optimize locks.’

The obligatory introduction of AIS should also improve the Barge Traffic System. This web application allows the Antwerp Port Authority to manage vessels and terminals, implement terminal planning, and closely follow the routes of ships. ‘AIS provides us with additional information that enables us to do all this more accurately. That should also lead to more efficient goods handling.’

The port installations at Ghent, Zeebrugge, and Ostend have not yet established a date for the mandated use of AIS for inland navigation.


Obligatory on the Danube: Austria and Hungary

Since 1 July 2008 the use of AIS on the Austrian part of the Danube (between 1880.200 and 2199.300 km) is compulsory. Ships not equipped with AIS can hire an AIS transponder upon payment of a deposit.

On the Hungarian section of the Danube, a phased introduction of an AIS mandate is being implemented. The mandate is applicable between kilometre points 1811 and 1433, starting from 01.07.2011 for Hungarian ships and from 01.01.2012 for all other ships.


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