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Offshore infrastructure in the North Sea

Priority: to guarantee the safe passage of seagoing ships

Dutch shipowners:

“Opportunities in the North Sea must be exploited, but spatial (re)organisation of the area must not hinder the safe navigation of international seagoing vessels.”

In the interest of the international shipping industry, the KVNR calls on the Dutch government, in the processes leading up to a spatial (re)organisation of the North Sea, to guarantee that seagoing vessels can continue to navigate safely and smoothly while sailing along the Dutch coast or into Dutch ports.

Niels van de Minkelis 150.JPG
Contact

 

Niels van de Minkelis
Technical and Nautical Affairs

+31 6 4824 0287
+31 10 2176 282
minkelis@kvnr.nl

Nathan Habers 150.JPG
Press inquiries

 

Nathan Habers
Public Relations


+31 10 2176 264
habers@kvnr.nl

Context

The North Sea offers a wealth of opportunities. At first glance, the North Sea appears to be a vacant building site for the construction of offshore infrastructure: windmills, islands, and aquaculture farms. There is even talk of building an airport on an artificial island off the Dutch coast. This is an ideal situation to achieve climate goals, without any inconvenience to citizens on the mainland.

In reality, however, the North Sea is already being used extensively for a variety of purposes; 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 250,000 vessels sail through this area, with some 50,000 ships calling at Dutch ports. 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

Challenge

On 19 June 2020, the North Sea negotiation agreement (‘North Sea Agreement’) was presented to the Dutch Lower House. This does not include supplementary agreements for shipping. Regarding shipping activities, the proposed agreement has the following starting point: “when designating areas at sea for a specific purpose, the safety and accessibility for shipping operations must be guaranteed. If safety risks arise as a result of new functions, these must be mitigated. The necessary measures for this must be implemented before commissioning."

In the interest of the international shipping industry, the KVNR calls on the Dutch government, in the processes leading up to a spatial (re)organisation of the North Sea, to guarantee that seagoing vessels can continue to navigate safely and smoothly while sailing along the Dutch coast or into Dutch ports. The KVNR calls for the following:

1. Provide 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).

The Coastguard will probably need additional VTS operators and additional VTS equipment for VTS coverage beyond the 12 nautical mile boundary of territorial waters.

2. Provide support vessels at offshore wind farms

Emergency standby vessels (ESVs) must be moored at every offshore wind farm to prevent a ship colliding with wind turbines in the event of an emergency.

3. Ensure good connections with Germany and Denmark

The Dutch government, in consultation with Germany and Denmark, must guarantee that the Dutch shipping routing measures to the northeast of the Wadden Islands connect properly with (future) German and Danish shipping routing measures.

Situations where ships have to make dangerously sharp turns or weave or cross paths unnecessarily with other shipping traffic should be avoided.

Therefore, a restricted area (‘clearway’) should be created above and in line with the ‘West Friesland’ traffic separation scheme where no offshore wind farms should be built.

Any adjustment of the shipping routes in the Dutch EEZ – also requiring the necessary approval from the International Maritime Organization (the UN agency for maritime affairs) – must not become the final element of decision-making policy in the North Sea strategy.

4. Account for increasing traffic via the Northeast Passage

The Northeast Passage north of Norway and Russia is becoming increasingly accessible to seagoing vessels for an increasingly longer part of the year. This route reduces the distance that a seagoing vessel has to sail from Asia to the Netherlands, compared to sailing via the Indian Ocean route.

This Northeast Passage will increasingly be taken by more and more ships in a way that is safe for people, the environment, ship and cargo.

In the organisation of the Dutch North Sea waters, it is important that this situation is anticipated and shipping routing measures taken.

State of play - 22 January 2021

In the course of 2020, the KVNR was involved in discussions about the North Sea Consultation at the behest of the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management.

During the North Sea consultation, the KVNR submitted a position paper asking for:

  1. To dispense with the ‘Hollandse Kust Zuidwest’ [Dutch south west coast];
  2. To dispense with the ‘Hollandse Kust Noordwest’’ [Dutch north west coast];
  3. To dispense with ‘search area 8’’;
  4. To dispense with the central reservation between ‘search area 5’ and ‘search area 6’;
  5. To provide good connections to the Arctic shipping route;
  6. To provide a safe corridor of passage between Amsterdam on the one hand, and the westernmost deep-water route and the United Kingdom on the other;
  7. To provide a uniform policy for passage and shared use of offshore wind farm areas.