24. Shipping on inland waterways

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1. Scope

2. Environmental impacts and protective measures

2.1 Overview
2.2 Technical design of inland waterway vessels and ferries
2.3 Operation

3. Notes on the analysis and evaluation of environmental impacts

4. Interaction with other sectors

5. Summary assessment of environmental relevance

6. References


1. Scope

Shipping on inland waterways covers all commercial shipping, and the subject includes both the craft concerned (inland waterway vessels and ferries) and their activities on the relevant transport routes (inland waterway traffic).

The purpose of inland waterway shipping is to provide transport services with the appropriate types and sizes of vessels. Its efficiency depends on the craft, the manner in which they are used and, finally, on the infrastructure of the waterway or inland port.

Inland waterway vessels fall into various categories depending on the nature of the cargo and their technical design, namely:

- towed trains (tugs and barges are now rare because of their lack of mobility),
- self-propelled motor vessels,
- pushing units made up of a push boat and a number of lighters (including those with mothership lighter systems such as "Seabee" and "Lash").

In the case of ferries, which usually carry a combination of goods, vehicles and passengers, different systems are used depending on the task in hand:

- pure river or canal ferries intended only for making crossings as self-propelled motor ferries, and cable- or chain-guided pontoon ferries driven by the current or by towing cables, and
- larger ferries for longer-distance river or lake transport.


2. Environmental impacts and protective measures

Inland waterway vessels are basically on a par with ocean-going vessels in terms of possible environmental impact, yet they are not subject to any international standards. It is true that treaties relating to inland waterway shipping and bilateral agreements exist in parts of Europe, but safety, and thus also the likelihood of environmental impact, is to a very large extent governed by national regulations. The only internationally applicable regulations are the more or less voluntarily observed classification regulations of the classification societies and regulations for individual waterways, such as the regulation for the transport of dangerous substances on the Rhine (ADNR).

Therefore any analysis of individual technical installations and protective measures should be made on the basis of the appropriate technical standards, taking account of the particular circumstances of the country concerned (such as the characteristics of the route, the absence of repair facilities, no assistance in case of emergencies, no protection for local residents etc.).

2.1 Overview

Environmental impacts occur individually or in combination as a result of:

- the characteristics of the vessels used (ships or ferries, age of vessel, condition of vessel, technical standard, safety standard, suitability for particular types of transport etc.);
- the management of the ship-owning and ship-operating companies, including the crew's qualifications, repair and maintenance activities and
- the nature, volume, handling and environmental danger of the transported goods, taken in conjunction with the ease of navigability of the waterway (be it river, canal or lake), the weather conditions, the capacity and usage of the waterway and the water's self-cleaning capability.

Provided the infrastructural measures such as inland channels, dredging, inland ports etc. are planned and implemented with due consideration for the environment (see environmental brief Inland Ports), the environmental impact of shipping on inland waterways is very largely attributable to human action in the operation of the vessel in conjunction with the standard of the vessel itself.

Besides ensuring that the means of transport (ships) and any necessary special facilities satisfy the appropriate technical standards, the aim should be to alert the men and women involved in shipping operations to the environmental impact of shipping by providing suitable training, and to take steps to prevent or minimise such impact.

2.2 Technical design of inland waterway vessels and ferries

Before a vessel or ferry is used at all for operations on inland waterways, construction and safety regulations relating to the navigation area and type of cargo must be adhered to.

These are mainly in the form of environmental protection measures on the vessel itself in the area of marine and mechanical engineering, aimed at preventing negative impact on the environment through later operation of the vessel, based on:

- conditions in the intended navigation area (wind, waves, currents, consistency of water depth, conditions on the bed, traffic volumes, proximity of land etc.),
- the goods/raw materials to be transported, their quantities and the risk they pose to the environment,
- and questions regarding the required or desired speed of the vessel and voyage durations.

Besides general safety and rescue precautions for passengers and crew (lifeboats, life rafts, floats etc., which are beyond the scope of this brief), the following cargo-related precautions should also be taken:

a) in the transport of petroleum derivates, such as petrol, diesel oil or kerosene, which pose a serious environmental hazard in terms of water and soil contamination and also carry risks of explosion and fire during transport and transfer and the risk of leakage and escape of large volumes of these substances; this can have serious effects on drinking water and groundwater, and thus on health, the ecosystem, fisheries and irrigation. Measures which help to avoid this are:

- flame-proof design of propulsion plant and electrical system;
- twin-screw propulsion by means of two separate engines (on both self-propelled vessels and push boats) and other manoeuvring aids (such as lateral thrust systems);
- tank venting systems to avoid the risk of gas formation in empty tanks;
- devices for earthing the pumping system to avoid the risk of electrostatic charging;
- separate pipelines for petrol and kerosene;
- fire protection and sprinkler systems for extinguishing or cooling the tanks, including active and back-up pumps;
- the provision and adequate dimensioning of slop-tanks for collecting tank cleaning residues, which must be disposed of in the inland harbours;
- the use of double-hulled tanker vessels where applicable;
- the introduction of effective tank-stripping systems, with the possibility of attaining 100 % cargo discharge.

b) in the transport of mass goods such as ore, coal or salts, which pose risks of water and air contamination and the destruction of ecosystems if the vessel should run aground or suffer damage:

- coverable loading hatches to provide a tight seal;
- double hulls in the area of the holds.

c) in the ferry transport of personnel, motor vehicles and goods, where the potential risks are to human safety and water purity:

- adequate rescue facilities;
- entrances, exits and gangways guiding the flow of people separately from the flow of vehicles, separate passenger decks;
- specially designated areas for vehicles and goods;
- fire protection equipment;
- sanitation installations including water and sewage tanks and disposal facilities in inland harbours.

All vessels must have an adequate water supply as an inherent design feature, irrespective of the goods being transported; the same applies to the navigational equipment, which must be appropriate to the navigation area (radio, echo sounding, radar etc.), to guard against accidents.

With regard to refuse and sewage, there should be sufficiently large collection containers or tanks and/or clarification equipment to meet the anticipated demand. Corresponding disposal facilities must be installed or guaranteed on land.

In the case of smaller river or canal ferries, close attention must be paid to manoeuvrability with a view to avoiding accidents, so that movable propeller propulsion systems are preferable to conventional fixed-screw propulsion systems.

When equipping vessels with loading gear or ferries with movable landing ramps for embarkation and disembarkation, the simplest possible designs should be used. Cable winches run off the on-board power supply or operated manually are preferable to hydraulic mechanisms, because of their reduced risk of breakdown, minimal maintenance requirement, and simpler repair; moreover, with hydraulic equipment there is the risk of hydraulic oil leakage, leading to water and soil contamination.

Ensuring that vessels and ferries are safely equipped and providing better training for crews in the interests of the environment often leads to higher costs, but in the medium term these measures will pay for themselves through the reduction in errors etc.

2.3 Operation

Inland waterway traffic involves all the different kinds of environmental impact liable to occur in the navigation of inland waterways (canals, navigable rivers, lakes), such as those to which:

- the water conditions and weather;
- the ship or ferry herself including her cargo and
- other waterway users (vessels)

give rise, and activities associated with this waterbound form of transport, including measures to guarantee the safety and ease of navigation (waterway maintenance, pilotage, navigational aids etc.).

Assuming the shipping operations are planned and implemented according to the state of the art and in a manner appropriate to the prevailing general conditions, the environmental impact of inland waterway traffic will largely be due to the vessels themselves, including the way they are operated and loaded:

a) Particularly in the case of older inland waterway vessel designs, poorly maintained vessels or careless disposal of waste, there is a risk to water quality, with repercussions on the flora, fauna, drinking water and groundwater, and therefore on the health of the population and agricultural irrigation as a result of e.g.:

- oil leaking into the cooling water circuit or emerging through the stern tube,
- oil-contaminated bilgewater, hold-cleaning and tank-cleaning residues (slop) and spillages upon refuelling or lubricating oil changes and
- sewage and refuse being discharged or thrown overboard instead of being disposed of properly in an inland harbour.

b) In the transportation of petroleum derivates (petrol, diesel oil, kerosene), there is a the risk of fire and explosion where the general safety rules are not adhered to, where these materials are improperly handled on the inland waterway vessel and where, in addition,

- general cargo is also allowed to be carried on these special vessels (or in pusher trains);
- the crew, unaware of the risks involved (particularly when navigating with empty tanks or partly gas-filled tanks) create naked flames (e.g. by smoking), and
- passengers are carried on deck above the tanks and are accustomed to prepare food in situ over open fires (particularly common in Africa).

c) During ferry operations (passengers, vehicles, goods) on inland waterways in developing countries, there is always a risk of vessels being overloaded or unevenly loaded and thus destabilised, so that under adverse conditions (visibility, bad weather, shallow waters) serious accidents may occur in which the vessel may even sink.

In addition, there is a risk of accident to vessels on inland waterways as a result of:

- inadequate precautions to guarantee the water depth (e.g. inadequate maintenance dredging),
- lacking or inadequate lighting of vessels, particularly in places where there is a rapid transition from twilight to darkness,
- lacking or non-functional navigational aids such as buoys, guiding beacons, shallows markers etc.,
- lack of waterway traffic control,
- bad weather and visibility conditions.

There is a particular risk of accident from ferries regularly crossing the main direction of shipping on the canal or river; because the same, usually short routes are always travelled, there is a strong tendency to become careless.

On lakes, and particularly artificial lakes, submerged trees which have not been broken up may be a danger to shipping.

Accidents are frequently caused by another problem on inland waterways: Wrecks of sunken ships, which are obvious obstacles to shipping in or close to the shipping channel, and which often cannot be seen at high water, are not removed. This also has environmental effects on water quality, because rapid corrosion of the wreck at high temperatures, above and below water, may release considerable quantities of heavy metals.

If shipping traffic is dense and fast-moving, erosion and pooling may be caused by the primary and secondary waves from the swell created by the vessel, particularly on unprotected natural banks, leading to damage and eventually the dislodging of the bank and its vegetation (trees, bushes).

Environmental protection measures to guard against the environmental impacts of inland waterway traffic include, in particular:

- the provision of reliable, safe and properly equipped vessels;
- comprehensive training and instruction of crews;
- the necessary hydraulic construction measures;
- the necessary staff training and strengthening of the supervisory body;
- the creation of a technical and administrative infrastructure (waste disposal and its supervision, technical and personnel monitoring and inspection etc.);
- the use of environment-friendly detergent for cleaning machinery and mechanical systems.

To achieve the above, it is essential to create an organisation (waterways authority) which is responsible for administration, maintenance, shipping operations and monitoring of environmental hazards, and which is adequately equipped and sufficiently powerful and motivated to deal with these tasks in a responsible manner, thereby enabling the successful prevention of environmental damage in the inland waterway shipping sector.

This organisation must be in a position:

- to identify and analyse environmental impacts,
- to evaluate these with a view to their avoidance,
- to provide suitable monitoring and supervision, and
- to implement the appropriate administrative measures in an effective manner (requirements and prohibitions, fines, prosecutions, organisation of disposal facilities etc.).

The imposition of the desired standards will be based not least on a body of legal standards. In this regard it will be necessary to maintain suitable disposal facilities in inland harbours for the disposal of sewage, refuse, slop etc.

The river police may be able to carry out the necessary administrative supervision and inspections.


3. Notes on the analysis and evaluation of environmental impacts

The environmental impacts resulting from the design and build quality of vessels and ferries can be analyzed and evaluated on the basis of the standards to be adhered to.

These construction and safety standards are based on the provisions and guidelines of the various international classification societies for construction of new vessels, as well as on the further rules to be respected by the shipyard under national standards (such as DIN in the case of Germany). These societies include, to name but a few, Lloyd's Register (UK), American Bureau (USA), De Norske Veritas (Norway), Bureau Veritas (France) and Germanischer Lloyd [GL] (Germany). GL regularly carries out inspections (surveys) not only when putting vessels into service but also at a later stage if required or in order to issue a classification (e.g. general inspections are carried out approximately every 5 years under GL rules for inland waterway vessels).


4. Interaction with other sectors

The environmental brief Shipping on Inland Waterways is closely linked to the environmental brief Inland Ports; indeed it more or less constitutes the latter's "operational section". Each sector is of economic benefit to the other, so that conflicts are ruled out (except in the case of obvious misplanning).

Because rivers and canals are used by inland waterway vessels and craft which serve the seaports by delivering cargo or providing onward transportation on inland waterways, this brief also interacts with (i.e. supplements and intersects):

- Ports and Harbours, Port Construction and Operations,
- River and Canal Engineering

and in a broader sense, with Large-scale Hydraulic Engineering and Erosion Control.

With regard to the disposal procedures for vessels and ferries on inland waterways, there are links with Wastewater Disposal, Solid Waste Disposal and Disposal of Hazardous Waste. Measures in these sectors also help the environmentally acceptable operation of inland waterway shipping.

Conflicts of use may occur if the river or canal water is not only a transport medium for inland shipping but is also used for water supply by direct extraction and/or bank filtration, and if contamination by inland waterway traffic cannot be ruled out (due to leakage, accident etc.); in this case, the sectors affected are:

- Urban and Rural Water Supply.

Ferry traffic, as a sector which primarily serves for the transportation of personnel and vehicles, is also linked in a wider sense with the environmental briefs

- Spatial and Regional Planning and Transport and Traffic Planning,

as regards the selection of routes and destinations and also cross-traffic.


5. Summary assessment of environmental relevance

Provided the standards of the classification societies performing international inspection and monitoring activities are taken as the basis for the construction and safety regulations applicable to inland waterway vessels and ferries, and assuming a properly planned and implemented waterway infrastructure, the vessels used for inland shipping will provide a safe and environmentally acceptable means of transport. In certain cases, however, it may be necessary to apply construction measures which depart from or go beyond these rules in order to take account of particular local needs, in which case the most environmentally acceptable rules must be tested and selected.

A further condition is that the operators of inland waterway vessels and the authorities or supervisory bodies which control and monitor inland waterway traffic must be instructed and trained in the avoidance of risks and the measures to be taken in respect of the potential environmental impact of shipping (particularly the impairment of water quality), and are developed into strong institutions to enable them to perform their tasks.

To achieve this, the training courses, the physical resources needed to perform the supervision and monitoring tasks and the requisite financial resources must be available in good time.

An inland waterway traffic system that is environmentally sound can only be achieved through a combination of:

- safe, state-of-the-art vessels (ships and ferries),
- safe operation by trained personnel,
- institutionally strong supervisory bodies to maintain the waterways, control the traffic and carry out environmental monitoring and inspection.


6. References

Beck, H.: Transport gefährlicher Güter mit Binnen- und Seeschiffen auf Binnenwasserstraßen, in Binnenschiffahrts-Nachrichten 1990, Nr. 4, p. 73.

Crisand, M.: Entwicklung und Tendenzen in der Binnentankschiffahrt, in: Binnenschiffahrts-Nachrichten 1988, Nr. 6, p. 16.

Jungmann, G.: Die technische Schiffssicherheit der Binnenschiffahrt, in: Zeitschrift für Binnenschiffahrt und Wasserstraßen, 1987, Nr. 3, p. 32.

Klassifikationsvorschriften, Section 1 - 7, 9, 10, Germanischer Lloyd, Hamburg, for different years (1971 - 1988)

Mintzel: Bundeswasserstraßengesetz (WaStr. G.) nebst ergänzenden Vorschriften, Handkommentar, published by Erich Schmid Verlag, Berlin 1969.

Ridder, K.: "Gefährliche Güter in der Binnenschiffahrt" in: Binnenschiffahrts- Nachrichten 1987, Nr. 12, p.5.

Stomberg: See-Fluß-Verkehre, Niederrhein-Kammer, Zeitschrift der IHK Duisburg-Wesel-Kleve, 1981.

Technischer Ausschuß Binnenhäfen, Empfehlungen und Berichte ETAB, 1981, E 12, Schubverkehr in Binnenhäfen.

Wilde, C.: Auf den Wasserweg, nicht auf den Holzweg, in: Binnenschiffahrts-Nachrichten 1988, Nr. 10, page 4.

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