In 2021, fewer shipping accidents were registered on the canals, rivers and lakes of the Netherlands than in 2020. The number of registered (very) serious accidents also declined. On the North Sea, the number of serious accidents rose slightly, remaining within the trend of previous years.

This was revealed by Rijkswaterstaat, which is part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and responsible for the design, construction, management and maintenance of the main infrastructure facilities in the Netherlands.

The total number of registered inland waterway accidents fell slightly from 1243 in 2020 to 1225 in 2021. Of this total number of accidents, 1077 were non-serious (as opposed to 1068 in 2020) and 148 were serious. These figures are around the average of the years 2014-2020.

Also read: Hasty mooring sees accidents in the Port of Rotterdam increase in 2021

Decrease serious ship accidents on inland waterways

In 2021, 148 serious ship accidents were registered. This is less than in 2020. An accident is considered serious or very serious if a vessel cannot or may not continue to sail as a result of the accident, if there is serious damage to cargo, infrastructure or the environment and this results in an obstruction of the shipping lane, or if (in exceptional cases) there are fatalities or serious injuries.

Rijkswaterstaat shipping accidents
Graph with overview of the number of serious shipping accidents between 2016 and 2022. Yellow: allision with infrastructure; dark blue: allision with objects; red: collision involving two or more vessels; light blue: one-sided shipping accidents; purple: interaction between ships; green: stationary.

Commercial and recreational shipping

The decrease in the number of serious accidents is mainly visible in commercial shipping (78 in 2021 compared to 96 in 2020) and to a lesser extent in recreational shipping (75 in 2021 compared to 82 in 2020). The number of serious accidents between commercial and recreational shipping increased from three in 2020 to five in 2021.

In total, five fatalities and twelve serious injuries were recorded as a result of shipping accidents in 2021. This mainly concerned recreational shipping.

The five casualties occurred in four one-sided accidents and one accident involved a recreational vessel that sailed over a person who had fallen overboard. In 2020, there were three fatalities and fourteen serious injuries.

Shipping accidents on the North Sea

In 2021, one very serious ship accident and ten serious ship accidents were registered on the North Sea. The very serious ship accident involved a sailing yacht that was lost after colliding with the pier of Scheveningen. There were no fatalities in 2021 in the (very) serious shipping accidents on the North Sea.

Also read: Allianz: Fewer total losses, more over-sized losses and uncertainties

Working together on safety

The Netherlands’ waterways are used by both commercial and recreational shipping, with naturally more recreational users in the summer season. Incorrect assessment of each other’s manoeuvres, limited sightlines and/or speed can lead to unsafe situations. Accidents involving both commercial and recreational shipping continue to show a downward trend.

Rijkswaterstaat is working with professional and recreational sailors and other parties to increase safety on the inland waterways under the “Sailing Together” campaign (Varen doe je samen). This campaign includes measures such as separating commercial and pleasure craft on certain routes, providing information, deploying mobile traffic controllers on the water and providing advice to recreational and commercial shipping.

Vaar Melder-app

The Dutch “Vaar Melder” app, which waterway users can use to report incidents and dangerous situations or behaviour, is still providing valuable reports from waterway users. Last year, both professional and recreational waterway users regularly reported dangerous sailing behaviour, siltation in the waterway, near collisions and broken lighting or missing traffic signs at bridges and locks.

Rijkswaterstaat and other managers such as provinces and port authorities were able to take action and ensure the safety of waterway users. The Vaar Melder app can be downloaded for iOS and Android.

Also read: ‘Ship fires among biggest safety concerns for the shipping industry’