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Inland waterways: River information services

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Inland waterways: River information services

Europe has over 30 000 km of canals and rivers that link together hundreds of key towns and areas of industrial concentration. In this context, the European Commission recognises the great potential of inland navigation as an alternative transport mode for freight transport. The use of information and communication technologies on inland waterways significantly increases the safety and efficiency of transport by inland waterway.


Directive 2005/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on harmonised river information services (RIS) on inland waterways in the Community [See amending acts].


This directive establishes a European Union (EU) framework for the implementation and use of harmonised river information services (RIS) in order to enhance the safety, efficiency and environmental friendliness of inland waterway transport as well as to ensure compatibility and interoperability with other modes of transport. This directive applies to all waterways of class IV or above across the EU.

RIS comprises services such as:

  • fairway information: the information systems contain geographical, hydrological and administrative data that are used by boat masters and fleet managers to plan, execute and monitor a voyage (e.g., water levels, traffic signs, opening hours of locks.);
  • traffic information services: these consist of tactical traffic information (display of the present vessel characteristics and movements on a limited part of the waterway) and strategic traffic information (display of vessels and their characteristics over a larger geographical area, including forecasts and analyses of future traffic situations);
  • traffic management: this is aimed at optimising the use of the infrastructure as well as facilitating safe navigation. Currently, the "VTS centres" (vessel traffic service centres) are designed to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and to protect the environment;
  • calamity abatement services: these services are responsible for registering vessels and their transport data at the beginning of a trip and updating the data during the voyage with the help of a ship reporting system. In the event of an accident, the responsible authorities are capable of providing the data immediately to the rescue and emergency teams;
  • information for transport management: this information includes estimated times of arrival (ETAs) provided by boat masters and fleet managers based on fairway information making it possible to plan resources for port and terminal processes. Lastly, the information on cargo and fleet management basically comprises two types of information: information on the vessels and the fleet and detailed information on the cargo transported;
  • statistics and customs services: RIS will improve and facilitate the collection of inland waterway statistical data in EU countries;
  • waterway charges and port dues: the travel data of the ship can be used to automatically calculate the charge and initiate the invoicing procedure.

EU countries must take the necessary measures to implement RIS and the principles for their development. EU countries must therefore:

  • supply to RIS users all relevant data concerning navigation on the inland waterways referred to in the previous paragraph;
  • ensure that electronic charts suitable for navigational purposes are available to RIS users;
  • enable, as far as ship reporting is required by national or international regulations, the competent authorities to receive electronic ship reports on the voyage and cargo data of ships;
  • ensure that notices to boat masters, including water level and ice reports for the inland waterways, are provided as standardised, encoded and downloadable messages; the standard message must contain at least the information needed for safe navigation;
  • establish RIS centres according to regional necessities;
  • make available the VHF channels for the purposes of automatic identification systems as determined in the Basel agreement;
  • encourage boat masters, operators or agents of vessels navigating on their waterways, shippers or owners of goods carried on board such vessels to make ful use of these new services.

In order to ensure harmonised and interoperable implementation of RIS, guidelines and technical specifications need to be established. The guidelines will cover the technical principles and requirements for the planning, implementing and operational use of RIS and related systems.

Technical specifications are envisaged in particular for the Electronic Chart Display and Information System for Inland Navigation (Inland ECDIS), electronic ship reporting, notices to boat masters and vessel tracking and tracing systems such as AIS (Automatic Identification Systems).



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2005/44/EC



OJ L 255 of 30.9.2005

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EU) 219/2009



OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2005/44/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

Last updated: 29.07.2011