Environmental protection is of particular importance for a form of transport that - in part - uses natural infrastructure. Major rivers represent the backbone of a network of waterways that also encompasses estuaries, lakes and canals. Sustainable use of this infrastructure, which is mostly natural, places major demands on its users.
A number of recent studies have shown how environmentally friendly inland navigation is. Targeted measures help strengthen this profile. There is thus a close link between safety-related measures and those relating to environmental protection. In fact, safety and environmental protection go hand in hand in many fields.
General considerations with respect to inland navigation also apply to navigation on the Rhine.
These efforts to protect the environment are reflected in practice by an ongoing fight against all forms of pollution.
Among the various activities are to be mentioned the protection against pollution resulting from accidents ("accidental pollution") and the protection at the level of working procedures on board vessels as well as the techniques used for the treatment of waste produced ("operational pollution").
In inland navigation, accidents may take place as a result of technical faults or human error, just like in any human activity. The risks in question are a major consideration when drafting safety guidelines. An in-depth analysis of the various potential scenarios, as well as of actual accidents, provides a basis for a coherent set of measures designed to ensure a high level of passive safety in the field of water transportation (technical guidelines and measures regarding the transportation of dangerous goods).
Inland navigation almost exclusively uses diesel engines for propulsion, which are obviously fuelled by diesel. The emission of exhaust fumes containing harmful substances is thus inevitable. The Central Commission has introduced rules designed to control these constituent compounds. A type approval is required for new engines installed on board inland vessels (CCNR 1 since 2003 and CCNR 2 since 2007). In this respect, reference is also made to community directives on mobile machinery (Directive 97/68/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1997)
The reduction of CO2 emissions is a primary focus of the Central Commission as part of its major climate change project. Accordingly, serious consideration is given to means of achieving major savings in fuel consumption, the use of alternative forms of energy such as natural gas and indeed the use of other combustion technologies, such as fuel cells.
Water transportation, by its very nature, whether involving passengers or cargo, generates waste. This waste must be handled in line with applicable regulations governing temporary storage on board vessels and transfer to recycling and disposal networks. Measures designed to prevent the generation of waste as well as the financing of the collection, storage and disposal of this material are specific aspects. Given the very nature of inland navigation, including the mobile and international nature inherent in this mode of transport, the States most closely affected have drawn up, with the support of the Central Commission, an international convention known as the CDNI (Convention on Collection, Deposit and Reception of Waste Produced during Navigation on the Rhine and Inland Waterways). This Convention came into force in November 2009. It covers waterways in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, part of the waterways in France (Rhine and Moselle), Luxembourg and Switzerland (Rhine). Introducing a ban on surface water discharges, the Convention and its implementing regulation set out detailed rules on waste prevention, how to handle waste generated on board vessels and the procedures governing transfer to land installations. The Convention also details the responsibilities with respect to the disposal of this waste. As the rules vary depending on the type of waste, they have been compiled together into separate annexes of the implementing regulation in accordance with the source of the waste on board vessels:
Part A governs the handling and financing of oily and greasy waste generated on board;
Part B governs cargo handling in light of the waste that may be generated;
Part C deals with other waste: garbage, other special waste, sewage of passenger vessels and equivalent:
The CDNI Convention is self-monitoring in nature, comprising a Contracting Parties Conference (CPC) and an International Clearance and Coordination Body. The secretariat for these bodies is run by the secretariat of the Central Commission from the headquarters in the Palais du Rhin in Strasbourg.