Offshore infrastructure in the North Sea

Priority: to guarantee the safe passage of seagoing ships

Shipowners say: “Opportunities in the North Sea must be exploited, but spatial (re)organisation of the area must not hinder the safe navigation of international sea-going vessels.”

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Niels van de Minkelis
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Nathan Habers
Public Relations

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The North Sea offers a wealth of opportunities. To this end, it is being used as a building site for the installation for numerous types of offshore infrastructure: windmills, man-made islands and aquaculture sites. This is even talk of building an airport on an artificial island off the Dutch coast. This situation is ideal in order to achieve the country’s climate goals in addition to the ensuring the future of Schiphol without inconveniencing those living on the mainland.

In reality, however, the North Sea is already extensively used for a variety of purposes. Therefore, unutilised space is scarce. In terms of shipping, Dutch North Sea waters are one of the busiest areas in the world. For example, every year 260,000 vessels sail through this area, with some 50,000 ships calling at a Dutch port. These shipping routes are the lifeblood of the Dutch economy.

Most of these ships navigate through special shipping routes (traffic separation systems) along the Dutch coast and into Dutch ports.

Interactive chart North Sea (in Dutch)

Source: Rijksoverheid Noordzeeloket


In the interest of international shipping, the KVNR calls on the Dutch government to lead the spatial (re)organisation process of the North Sea. The aim of this process will be to ensure that seagoing vessels can continue to navigate safely and smoothly when sailing along the Dutch coast or into Dutch ports.

  1. VTS coverage

All Dutch wind farms – including, if possible, those on the entire Dutch Continental Shelf – must be covered by a radar shipping traffic control system (Vessel Traffic Service, VTS).

  1. Support ships

Support ships (known as Emergency Standby Vessels, ESVs) must also positioned in specific areas to prevent collisions with wind turbines in emergency situations:

  • one ESV on the west side of the future Hollandse Kust Zuidwest wind farm,
  • two ESVs on the west side of the future Hollandse Kust Noordwest wind farm,
  • two ESVs on the west side of the future Hollandse Kust West wind farm.

Smooth connections in the northeast

The Dutch government must coordinate with the German government to guarantee that shipping traffic control systems and routes heading east of the Wadden Islands into the German Bight are adequately aligned to future German wind farms.

Situations where ships are forced to make dangerously sharp turns or unnecessarily cross with other shipping routes must be prevented.

Any changes to shipping routes within the Dutch EEZ – including the necessary approval from the International Maritime Organization – should not be the determining factor in the decision making process of North Sea strategy.

State of play - 31 October 2019

In December 2018, the Consultative Body for the Physical Living Environment (OFL), commissioned by the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, issued the advisory report Exploration North Sea Strategy 2030 (Dutch), published in the scope of the North Sea Strategic Agenda 2030 (Dutch).

In October 2019 the final proposition (Dutch) of the OFL for the North Sea was published. It does not include additional agreements pertaining to shipping (traffic separation schemes, anchorage). It is clearly stated that the safety and accessibility should be guaranteed regarding area's at sea for designated purposes. Possible safety risks, as a result of new functions, must be mitigated. Necessary measures should be taken prior to taking effect. Regarding enforcement at sea it is clearly stated that de safety and accessibility pertaining to shipping must be guaranteed.