The IWT sector has warmly welcomed the organisation of the Focus Workshop: Notices to Skippers Standard 4.0 under the Danube Region Strategy and Working Group Meeting on River Information Services. The event took place on 18 November 2021 and you can view its agenda online – click here!

Notices to Skippers (NtS) have supported for years traffic safety on European inland waterways and provided information regarding the usability of the infrastructure (e.g. with regard to lock closures). Driven by regulations and directives of the European Commission and based on standardisation efforts of dedicated expert groups, NtS messages have become an indispensable communication channel for shipping companies. Being aware that additional steps are needed to increase their usability and reliability as well as to make RIS Services available for the entire inland waterway network, the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/2032 of 20 November 2018 amended the Commission Regulation (EC) No 416/2007 concerning the technical specifications for Notices to Skippers. This up-to-date standard is commonly referred to as Notices to Skippers Standard 4.0. The Regulation required the EU Member States to provide Notices to Skippers services for their inland waterways in line with the included implementation rules and the encoding guide by 28 June 2021. Priority Area 1a of the EU Danube Region Strategy has therefore invited all authorities and actors involved in drafting, approving and publishing Notices to Skippers messages in the Danube countries such as traffic/navigation authorities, RIS providers, power plant operators etc. to an online workshop.

Workshop – 18 November 2021

Main aim of the workshop was to develop a joint work programme which will ensure compliance with NtS Standard 4.0 along the whole waterway. In cooperation with the Danube Commission, European Barge Union and Pro Danube International user requirements and good practices were discussed. The European IWT Platform was represented by Ms Theresia Hacksteiner of EBU who voiced the needs and expectations of the industry, emphasising the importance of a proper infrastructure for carriers – both passengers and cargo carriers – to be considered as reliable service providers.
IWT is depending on a well-maintained infrastructure. In case of the unavoidable closures of the waterways, due to necessary works, it is important to receive prior notifications:

1. On time – meaning at least 15 days in advance. Works should also be restricted in time by carrying them out 24/7, in order to avoid the unnecessary delays. From past experiences, we have learned that sector needs a proper dialogue with the waterway authorities to support the mutual understanding and contribute to finding the best solutions.
2. Easily accessible, preferably via one portal and at least in three languages.
3. User-friendly.

The IWT sector welcomes the initiatives undertaken by the Danube Commission to deliver recommendations regarding a full implementation and harmonisation of the Notices to Skippers Standard 4.0, which supports the industry’s plea. Under RISCOMEX, a single access point will be developed.

Theresia Hacksteiner
Infrastructure Committee