The heavy traffic on the Nieuwe Maas in the centre of Rotterdam calls for more direction and professionalisation. This is the conclusion of the Dutch Safety Board after investigating an incident on 21 July 2022 in which a tour boat and a water taxi collided near the Erasmus Bridge.

Sea-going vessels, barges, passenger ships, pleasure boats and water taxis criss-cross each other. Safe passenger transport by water is only possible if all skippers are aware of their sailing behaviour, if the waterway is more clearly laid out and if everyone obeys the rules.

The Dutch Safety Board recommends Watertaxi Rotterdam to consistently pay attention to boaters’ behaviour and compliance with rules. For example, skippers should receive more training and be less distracted.

Also read: DSB: Fatal collision shows need for better sailing behaviour and regulations on Wadden Sea

Less complex and enforcing compliance

Furthermore, the Safety Board recommends that the Nieuwe Maas be made less complex. This is up to the Harbourmaster Rotterdam and the municipality of Rotterdam, together with users such as Watertaxi Rotterdam, Royal Spido and Waterbus.

There should also be a clearer legal framework to enforce compliance with rules, for example on who can sail where and at what speed.

Working together on safety

Erica Bakkum, member of the Dutch Safety Board: ‘Every day, many passengers are transported across the Nieuwe Maas in the heart of Rotterdam. They must be able to trust that this happens safely. Water taxi skippers must be aware of their responsibility. There are all kinds of rules and procedures, but the skippers’ sailing behaviour regularly deviates from them. You don’t change behaviour with rules alone. Passenger safety on a water taxi is currently less well guaranteed. The parties involved really need to work together to improve safety.’

Also read: Occupational accidents top the list in Dutch Safety Board report

Another water taxi incident

This is the second investigation by the Dutch Safety Board in a short time into an incident involving a water taxi. In December 2023, the investigation was published on the incident in the Schuitengat near Terschelling.

‘Two drastic incidents involving water taxis in a short time indicates the urgency of the situation,’ adds Bakkum. ‘Therefore, it is good that the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management recognises the importance of clear laws and regulations for safety on the waterways. At the moment, there are too few requirements that these small fast motorboats have to meet.’

Also read: OM prosecutes captains in fatal Wadden Sea boat crash

Nieuwe Maas collision

On the Nieuwe Maas river near the Erasmus Bridge in the centre of Rotterdam, the harbour tour boat Marco Polo and the fast water taxi MSTX 21 collided on 21 July 2022 at around 1 pm. The skipper and five passengers of the water taxi ended up in a bubble under the overturned water taxi.

After nine minutes, they were able to get out of the water taxi through the rear thanks to the help of another water taxi. Soon after, the water taxi sank. One of the passengers suffered broken bones. The water taxi was lost. The Marco Polo had minor material damage.

Picture: Nieuwe Maas river and Erasmus Bridge (by Guilhem Vellut/Flickr).

Also read: Fewer incidents, but increasingly busy waters worry harbour master Rotterdam