Discussion on the use of waterways underway

The current and future use of waterways is also intrinsically linked to the N2000 fairway and nautical chart reform. To determine the best future practices, a dedicated work group has been formed to review the instructions provided for the use of merchant shipping routes, the ways in which information is presented and the associated terminology and concepts The fairway and nautical chart reform will improve and clarify the information provided on nautical charts, which will also facilitate the more efficient use of merchant shipping routes.

“The work group is focusing particularly on merchant shipping routes, with the information provided about waterways and the instructions for their use being at the heart of the discussion. The maximum authorised draught presented on nautical charts has been a key concept as regards the use of waterways in Finland. While seafarers are aware of the maximum authorised draughts of waterways, other, more detailed instructions pertaining to the use of waterways has not necessarily reached all relevant parties,” explains the chairperson of the work group, Stefan Engström.  

In addition to nautical charts, waterway users need information from other sources to optimise the use of waterways. The concept of maximum authorised draught and associated guidelines have changed in the 21st century. Because of this, the maximum authorised draughts presented on nautical charts are no longer consistent with the contemporary definition of maximum authorised draught. Under good conditions, a waterway can actually be used with a maximum design draught that exceeds the maximum authorised draught, yet the figure presented on nautical charts is often considered absolute. The work group has considered removing maximum authorised draughts from nautical charts, as doing so would make chart markings less open to interpretation and could also steer merchant shipping professionals towards more efficient and seamless use of waterways. 

“Maximum authorised draughts can be seen as playing too large a role in the use of waterways. Maximum authorised draught is a default value derived from the dimensions of the waterway. The draught at which a waterway is actually safe to navigate must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account current conditions,” says Engström. 

The more detailed nautical chart information to be introduced by the N2000 fairway and nautical chart reform will facilitate the more efficient use of waterways 

The ongoing fairway and nautical chart reform will improve and clarify the information provided on nautical charts, which will also facilitate the more efficient use of merchant shipping routes. Reaching this goal will require not only up-to-date and sufficient information, but for the maritime sector to have a shared understanding of the use of waterways.  

“The discussion carried out with and events organised for interest groups during the fairway and nautical chart reform have frequently highlighted questions related to the use of waterways, including the availability of information needed by customers and the responsibilities and roles of different operators. I consider this dialogue to be important for establishing a shared understanding between different operators and consistent principles regarding instructions for the use of waterways,” says team leader Janina Tapia Cotrino, who is coordinating the N2000 project. 

The work group examining the use of waterways aims to determine the best practices for instructions, waterway-specific information and terminology during spring 2021. The work group includes representatives from both the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency. 



Stefan Engström, Senior Inspector, stefan.engstrom(a)traficom.fi, tel. +358 (0)29 534 6724 Twitter @stefuEng 

Janina Tapia Cotrino, Team Leader, janina.tapiacotrino(at)traficom.fi, tel. +358 (0)29 534 6756, Twitter @tapiacotrino