There is a growing need for real-time information exchange in inland navigation, as it does in all other transport sectors. The exchange of traffic and transport related information between vessels and shore (but also between vessels) is essential to enhance safety and efficiency of inland waterway transport (IWT) by optimising traffic and transport processes.
River Information Services (RIS) are services that provide such real-time information in a harmonised way, streamlining the exchange of information between all IWT stakeholders. They even include, wherever feasible, interfaces with other transport modes. Since 2005, minimum requirements for RIS implementation and agreed RIS standards are provided by an EU Directive. The aim of this so-called RIS-Directive is to ensures cross-border compatibility of national systems.
As is shown in the figure below, the scope of the RIS Directive is particularly focussed on the main waterways in the EU Member States, but also on some less important waterways RIS has been implemented (e.g. in Portugal).
The main objectives of RIS are:
- Improvement of safety in inland ports and rivers
- Enhance the efficiency of inland navigation by enabling the information exchange between different agents in the transport chain.
- More effective use of the inland waterway infrastructure by providing information on the status of the fairways.
- Better integration of IWT into multimodal supply chains trough accurate and timely information exchange within the transport chain.
- Environmental protecting by providing traffic and transport information in case of a calamity.
RIS cover a lot of different services currently applied within Europe, including:
- Inland Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) have been developed in an uniform way for all countries, many free of charge.
- Notices to Skippers (NTC) are provided in various countries. They include messages on the status of the inland waterway infrastructure (i.e. bridges and locks), failures of aids to navigation, temporarily blockages of waterway sections or other types of infrastructure, works, water level and water depth information ice information and weather messages.
- Electronic data interchange (EDI) is used for reporting purposes to and between competent authorities and to facilitate electronic data interchange among partners in inland navigation as well as with partners in the multi-modal transport chain involving inland navigation.
- Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a standardised procedure for the automatic exchange of nautical data between ships and between ships and shore installations.
- Statistics and custom services: the RIS improves and facilitates the collection of inland waterway statistical data in the countries covered.
- Waterway charges and port dues: travel data of the ship can be used to automatically calculate the charge and initiate the invoicing procedure.
Legal and policy framework
In 2005 the European Parliament and the European Council adopted Directive 2005/44/EC, dealing with Harmonised River Information Services (RIS) on inland waterways of the Community. This directive provides minimum requirements to enable cross-border compatibility on national systems. Comprehensive and international guidelines for RIS are continuously developed to harmonise the existing standards for particular river information systems. A first evaluation of this Directive by Panteia et al. (2014) shows that it has contributed to many collaborations of public and private parties to define and implement standards and the roll out of key RIS technologies and services.
The development of RIS should support the competitiveness of inland waterway in the logistic sector. The policy importance of the instrument is mentioned in various EU policy papers, including the EU White Paper and the TEN-T guidelines. RIS are also a cornerstone of the Digital Inland Waterways Activity (DINA) initiative, that has been launched by the European Commission in 2015. The aim of this initiative is to digitise information flows in IWT in order to support the seamless integration of IWT in multimodal logistic chain.
More information on RIS can be found here.