As of December 1, 2014, the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, the organization responsible for policing the navigation and traffic rules as well as technical requirements for vessels on the Rhine, required that vessels be equipped with an Inland AIS device. They specified that vessels should also carry an Inland ECDIS device in information mode using up-to-date electronic inland navigation charts. In addition, they recommend radar for displaying traffic in the immediate vicinity of the vessel, and a PC with mobile data communication equipment (GSM) for e-mail, Internet services, and electronic reporting, and Inland ECDIS equipment in navigation mode (to work in concert with radar).
The Rhine River is one of the world’s busiest inland waterways. According to wikipedia, It flows 760 miles from its source in the southeastern Swiss Alps through Swiss, French, German and Dutch lands until it reaches its outlet in the North Sea. It is the second longest river in Central and Western Europe.The Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine states that an average of 6,900 commercial vessels travel the river daily (1,200 pushed barges, 4,400 motor cargo vessels, and 1,300 tankers). In addition, pleasure craft ply the waters in ever increasing numbers.
The Dutch Vaarwijzer Nieuwsbrief reports that AIS will be mandatory on all Dutch waterways sometime in 2015 for commercial shipping and pleasure craft longer than 20 meters. AIS has been mandatory on the Austrian Danube since July, 2008 and it has been required on the Hungarian section of the Danube since January, 2012.
An interview featured on the River Information Services site out of Belgium zeroes in on the advantages of AIS on inland waterways. Renaat De Backer comments “My colleagues sail on the Danube in Austria, where AIS is mandatory. They are very happy with it. AIS has a much greater range than radar, and has no trouble with twisting bends.” He also mentioned that seeing all the necessary information about a vessel is especially helpful if skippers from foreign ports cannot speak the language of the oncoming vessel. De Backer states,” It's essential, not a luxury.”
Vessel tracking with AIS also helps river ports to plan ahead. De Backer: “The ports get a better picture of ship movements and the need for dockside berths. Naturally this leads also to benefits for the inland shipping entrepreneurs – the flow goes more smoothly.” With a radar overlay, the integrated single screen provides all the information needed. Using AIS, bridges and locks can receive data in advance of a vessel's arrival. Finally, because a vessel is continuously transmitting basic information, maritime radio traffic is substantially reduced.
It is clear that soon all European inland waterways will acknowledge the benefits of AIS for vessel tracking, safety, and more efficient handling of vessels and their cargoes.