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Rules for Dutch inland navigation

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

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Do you sail vessels on Dutch inland waterways? Then you must comply with the Inland Shipping Act.

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Do you sail the Dutch inland waterways commercially as a skipper of a pleasure boat, passenger ship, or cargo ship? Then you and your crew must comply with the Dutch Inland Shipping Act.

The Inland Shipping Act (in Dutch) contains requirements for, among others:

  • the reliability, interior, and equipment of a vessel
  • the (crew's) working conditions
  • the skipper's physical condition and professional competence

Various bodies, such as the police and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat, RWS), check if you keep to the Inland Shipping Act.

Required documents for Dutch inland navigation

Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster (EU kwalificatiecertificaat schipper)

You must have a Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster if you sail on inland waterways. The certificate requires the correct diplomas, a maritime radiotelephone certificate, a recent medical certificate, and 4 years of sailing time. You can apply for the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster with the CBR (in Dutch). The certificate is valid for 13 years. After that you have to renew it. You must also renew when you reach the ages of 60, 65, and 70. From the age of 70 you must renew every 2 years.

The Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster replaces the (conditional) large licence (Beperkt Groot Vaarbewijs), and the Large Licence (Groot Vaarbewijs) Type B (rivers, canals, and lakes).

Exchange your licence for the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster

Do you need to exchange your (conditional) large licence for the Union certificate of qualification as a boatmaster? You have until 17 January 2032 to do so, or before your current (conditional) large licence expires.

You need a health certificate (in Dutch), no more than 3 months old, if you need to replace your licence or to add specific licences. You can exchange your licence with the CBR (in Dutch). A fee is charged for the licence exchange.

Did you obtain your (conditional) large licence outside the Netherlands? You can only exchange your licence in the country where you obtained it.

Certificate of inspection or inland navigation certificate

In many cases, you need a certificate of inspection or an inland navigation certificate for your vessel (in Dutch). This states that your ship meets all technical requirements. You can request certificates for inland navigation vessels from classification societies or inspection authorities (in Dutch).

Apply for a Rhine declaration

Are you the (co-)owner or operator of an inland vessel? Then you usually need a Rhine declaration. This allows you to sail on almost all inland waters of the EU member states and Switzerland. You can apply for the Rhine declaration to Kiwa Register (in Dutch).

EU certificate of qualification

At least one person within your business must have an EU certificate of qualification for inland shipping. This proof is compulsory for commercial inland shipping. You can apply for an EU certificate of qualification for inland shipping to Kiwa Register (in Dutch) if you have the required documentation, among others:

  • professional diploma entrepreneur in inland navigation
  • diploma MBO (vocational college) Rhine- and inland navigation with qualification captain
  • diploma Captain/manager Inland Navigation Level 3 or Level 4
  • permit for professional transport of goods issued by the Dutch Transport and Water Management Inspectorate

For more informaton on the required documentation contact Kiwa Register.

Tonnage certificate

In some situations, a tonnage certificate is mandatory. You can request a tonnage certificate from ILT (in Dutch).

LNG declaration

Does your ship use LNG as fuel? Then the skipper and all crew members involved in loading fuel (bunkering) must have an LNG declaration. You can apply for the LNG declaration to CBR (in Dutch). You have to take an LNG course for this. The LNG declaration is valid for 5 years, after which you must renew it.

For more information on diplomas, exams, and licences, you can contact the Central Office for Motor Vehicle Driver Testing (Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen, CBR).

Inland shipping crew

Do you have a crew as a shipowner or bargeman (in Dutch)? The Inland Shipping Act contains rules about the:

  • expertise of the crew
  • composition of the crew
  • rest times of the crew

Service book and logbook

Crews can demonstrate their competence with a service booklet (in Dutch). You must record the working hours of your crew. You can keep track of this in a sailing logbook. All vessels must have a sailing logbook (except ferries).

Special transport exemption for provincial waterways

Do you plan a special transport on a canal or river? Or will you be sailing a boat of unusual dimensions? Then you must apply for an exemption from the province (in Dutch).

Transporting hazardous substances

Do you transport hazardous substances on Dutch inland waterways? Then you must comply with the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (ADN, in Dutch). The ADN is updated every 2 years.

If you transport dangerous goods, you must be in possession of certain documents (in Dutch). Sometimes you have to report to the first IVS station on your route.

Are you unable to meet the requirements for transporting dangerous goods? In some cases, you can apply for an exemtion for transporting dangerous goods in inland waterways to the ILT (in Dutch).

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This information is provided by

Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
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