Dutch Parliament: ‘Coast Guard must be able to force ships to take a certain route’

Dutch Parliament has once again urged Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen to grant the Coast Guard the authority to issue mandatory traffic guidance north of the Wadden Sea. In stormy conditions, the Coast Guard could then prohibit container ships from taking the southern shipping route there.

Several ships have lost containers in heavy weather along this route. The most serious example being the MSC Zoe, but also recently the container feeder Baltic Tern.

As early as November 2020, the House of Representatives adopted a motion from Members of Parliament Schonis and Postma to give the Coast Guard more powers. The motion was adopted with 117 votes. Only political party VVD voted against at the time and the Minister has not implemented the motion to date.

Baltic Tern

In early April, the Baltic Tern lost five containers above Ameland. Members of Parliament for the PvdA and D66 asked questions about this. The big question was whether the Baltic Tern had been advised to stay away from the southern route. This advice was indeed given. But the Coast Guard is not allowed to go beyond advice. The captain is not obliged to follow such an advice.

Also read: Investigation into containers lost overboard by Baltic Tern

The captain of the Baltic Tern was also not the only one to disregard the Coast Guard’s advice, reports the Minister in response to the parliamentary questions: ‘During the recent period with higher waves, fourteen large container ships planning to take the southern route were contacted. These ships were asked to take the northern route. Twelve ships followed the advice, two did not.’

Maritime Consultation

MPs De Groot and Geurts have now called on the Minister once again to act on last year’s motion. The minister has promised to discuss the matter again during the Maritime General Consultation on 2 June.

This article first appeared in Dutch on Schuttevaer.nl, a publication of SWZ|Maritime’s publishing partner Promedia.

Picture: The Baltic Tern lost five containers in April (photo Coast Guard).

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.