Short Sea Shipping in the EU


Just as an example here is some information about a modern inland waterway ship like the mt Vlissingen

Tonnage 9264 ton
Tankcap 10700 m3
Length 13463 cm
Beam 2157 cm
Draft 440 cm
Propulsion Caterpillar 3 x 1521 pk
Motortype 3512 (B) DI-TA electronic
Bow thruster 1 644 pk Caterpillar - Veth-Jet
Bow thruster 2 644 pk Caterpillar - Veth-Jet

The somewhat futuristic wheelhouse. Scotty beam me up! The ship is equipped with a DP system and an Alphaheight bridge measuring system with inputs from the draft and bridge height sensors. On automatic the bridge will be lowered and raised again afterwards to respect the air draft. It will sound an alarm if the deck cargo is too high.


The nice looking living quarters. They use professional interior designers and that shows. They sail with their families in no poor conditions. The wife also has all the papers required to sail the ship, they are a team.

I once visited such a ship with a group of Japanese journalists who were dumbfounded by the luxury and space as small quartered as they generally are at home. They were pleasantly surprised by the fact that they had to take off their shoes before they were allowed to enter ma’s domain.


Short sea shipping in the US?

Yes I see what you mean. I should not have tried to be polite and say “more or less”.
In the rest of your post you confirm that they are actually non-existent.


I keep on posting pictures because there is obviously some confusion about what constitutes Container Feeder ships and even Short Sea Shipping.

Dutchie is in much better position to explain the inland shipping scene in Europe than me.
All I know is that it is a thriving business but in need of some changes to meet the new emission rules for both sea and land transport in the European Union. Work is in progress to do so.

The EU goal is to bring more of the transport needs over to Short Sea and Inland Shipping:

A lot of this is based on the need to bring down emission, but it is also an economical aspect here.
If anybody have the time and interest, here is a detailed study of Inland water vs. road transport:


This does not make any sense, there was no confusion, perhaps you did not read the post.

This is the post that you responded to:

No claim that feeders are European only.

This was your response:

Nobody has made the claim that feeders are only in Europe which is what you are evidently trying to refute.


The existing European waterway system offers a large and untapped potential to manage increasing transport flows and to decrease congestion of road and railways. In total 29,172 km of European inland waterways have been earmarked by EU governments as waterways with international importance (“E-waterways”), whereby Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have no direct access to the rest of the European waterway network. For the coming decades, however, about 40 percent of the length of these waterways has a very limited relevance, because of the small capacity of the barges that can pass along them. An example is the river Danube with many navigationable limitations. As a result the Central European waterways are utilized below their capacities, cargo transported on the Danube is only 10-20% of that transported on the river Rhine, while traffic volume on rail and road is increasing constantly. Especially road transport leads to high external costs caused by air pollution or congestion.

Facing these problems, a new inland waterway ship called NEWS (FP7 Project, Development of a Next generation European inland Waterway Ship and logistics system) is being constructed. The resource efficiency is going to be increased by up to 30% due to the adjustable LNG-gas-electric propulsion system. Additionally the fuel consumption can be decreased by 10% due to a new hull design.


Traffic on the river Rhine, business and pleasure.

As for this country the situation is rather different. The Dutch fleet consists of in total 8000 ships with a load capacity of 7.4 million tons and is the biggest and most modern in Europe. It has a market share of 34% of the total transport sector in this country. The market share in bulk goods is 80% and in containers 35% which is good for 3.2 million TEU per year. The biggest ships can carry 16.000 tons which is the equivalent of 660 fully loaded trucks in one go.

For those interested here is a report in English about the “The future of freight transport and inland navigation in Europe”.


No pictures does not change the economics of the situation, but it may help to see what and how things are done in other countries.
The difference in cost between Road, Rail and short sea/inland shipping in terms of cost per t/km (t/mile) is indisputable. The total cost port to consignee or v.v. and cost incl. from road congestion. accidents, pollution and social costs is an entirely different thing, which have been subject to studies both in USA, Europe, India and China.
Here is a link to one of the most comprehensive ones:


Wilson is one of the leaders in European short sea and sea/river bulk shipping, with a fleet of 117 vessels:

They are not a low standard, “cheap is good” company.
Although they use mainly Russian and East European officers and crew, they treat and train them well and retain them over the long run. They are on permanent employment contracts, not day rated short assignments:

They are also using modern management methods to ensure the quality of their ships and their service:

You can rest assured that they maintain rest hours per EU and IMO regulations, otherwise they would be caught up in a mess of legal problems, since they are trading mainly in NW Europe where control is frequent and the facilities for crews to complain is available, regardless of nationality and flag state.

PS> The Wilson concept: Any ship can carry any cargo at any time.


After having said a few things about the European and Dutch inland waterway market it is perhaps time to say something about the European Short Sea Shipping market. I will do that by showing a couple of graphics which are mostly self explaining with in mind: “A picture says more than a thousand words”.


A modal split of the freight transport.


Short sea shipping of freight transport by sea region in 2012.


Short sea shipping of freight transport by sea region and type of cargo in 2012.

Development of SSS business including a prognosis for the coming years.


I’ve been told by charterers agents and others that, in general, most ships on a busy coastwise trade are in compliance with work/rest on paper only. In many cases it’s simply not possible to maintain work/rest hours given the schedule and crew size.

I don’t know about the feeder vessel is the EU in particular but I’d be surprised if they were in different then the trade I’m familiar with. My observations wrt shipping in the EU match @DamnYankee’s, short port stays, locks etc, I don’t see how true compliance is possible.


Well I don’t have first hand knowledge, or have seen any report on the compliance with work/rest hr. rules by the Short Sea Ships in Europe.
I have watched the come and go and it does not appear that they even break watches, or call out extra crew for mooring/un-mooring.
I remember watching this one come alongside a while ago:

I was wondering why there were no linesmen on the wharf as she came close. When she came alongside she was keep in position using thrusters. One man lowered the gangway to get on the wharf and another on the forecastle lowered down the spring line and threw a heaving line for the bow line. They then moved to the stern to repeat.
The Mate on watch was alone in the wheelhouse during this operation. (No pilot)

I have watch this Fish food carrier come in to disembark a couple of technicians and their tools:

Same procedure, only that no gangway was needed, since she had a fixed ladder. They only set the bow spring line and kept here alongside using the engine dead slow ahead.

The two deck hands then operated the crane to discharge the tools:

I obviously don’t know if this is how every short sea ship or coaster operate, but it is certainly my impression that they are able to operate safely with a small crew and without breaking too many rules.

These ships call at 34 ports each way on their 11 day round trips Bergen - Kirkenes v.v.:
There is one man Fwrd. and one aft on arrival and departure. (They do have a linesman on the wharf though)

PS> The gangway and side gate are operated hydraulically.


MacGregor system if I don’t remember wrong.


It almost looks like a luxury river cruise vessel. In my experience engineer superintendents attach little importance to repairing remote draft indicators or tank gauges unless the gauges are in bunker tanks. On one new ship a monetary adjustment was made because the forward draft indicator never worked.


Competition in container transport led to the design of ships with lower GT, that carry more containers on deck than in enclosed cargo spaces. The tonnage-based dues for feeders are charged only for the cargo carried in enclosed spaces (cargo holds), while those stowed on deck are free from dues. As a result the feeders’ holds are kept as small as possible with a (too) low freeboard. It is an irony that the earning space, such as deck cargo space, is omitted from tonnage whereas desirable features such as crew space or forecastle or double-hull envelope are included. Ports, as always attentive on their earnings, since more and more cargo are being carried on deck, have started using other means than GT or NT to recover the dues. For container ships, many ports are using TEU as the basis, thus it was after all unnecessary to develop stupid rules so we are now stuck with a generation of unstable and therefore unsafe ships. Another reason for building of these minimized ships was that they could sail with three less crew.

Unstable due to small depth/cargo hold, low freeboard with a very small angle of deck edge immersion so that with a small list there is already water on deck and the large number of containers on deck. Add to that the fact that 10 - 20% of the containers are overweight. For a normal container ship this is not a direct big problem but for ships balancing on a knife point it can become vital like with the Dutch feeder Dongedijk which had in total 150 tons of overweight on deck and capsized in August 2000 near Port Said.

However, the overweight was not the only cause of the capsize. The ship also had a trim of 1.60 m and with a heel of only 2° to 6° water came on deck and also filled the gangways with tens of tons of sea water. After a rudder command the ship heeled and capsized.

All problems are gone if feeders got one more container layer in the hold and one less on deck. A result would also be a much larger freeboard and a safe and stable ship.

The 500-TEU feeder Deneb , while loading on 11 June 2011 in the Spanish harbor of Algeciras, suddenly capsized. The cause was too many light containers low in the ship and too many overweight containers high on deck. Of 150 containers 92 were overweight, in total 241 tons. A number of containers were 200 - 600% overweight! Hence the SOLAS VGW certificate requirement these days which were developed due to the sinking of the MSC Napoli in 2007, the capsize of the Deneb in 2011 and the sinking in July 2013 of the MOL Comfort in the Indian Ocean.

Investigation report of the capsizing of mv Deneb.


Does the “hatchless” design of some of these feeders still make the hold an enclosed space? I see a fair amount with at least one hatchless hold. The others usually have hydraulicly opening hatch covers.


Personally I think not. For the ruling fully enclosed means exactly that. Hatchless container ships are disappearing due to problems. One is the extreme weight which the bottom container has to carry, sometimes the weight of 12.

The Dongedijk is now named Deversoir and was nicked by the Egyptian authorities, ignoring international law, owners and insurance companies. The inside was completely stripped by looters, all in good old Egyptian fashion.


Now 118


As was shown by the incidents with the Dongedijk and Deneb an important factor is the height to which containers can be safely stowed above deck. According to naval architect Ernst Vossnack, the one with the floating coffins theory for ships with large free surface areas, ships with more tiers of cargo on deck than in the holds like the Dongedijk were inherently more unstable than if the situation had been reversed. Reducing the height of deck cargoes would make ships more stable and it would reduce the number of containers lost overboard each year , especially dangerous cargo containers loaded above deck because of their hazardous nature. Another reason for the Dongedijk’s capsizing was that a number of containers were overweight. There was no evidence that this had been done on purpose, but the suspicion that this was the case was in the minds of many. There are always shippers ready to make a fast extra buck by overloading containers on purpose to move part of the goods for free.


The GZ curve of the Dongedijk has a serious defect. There is an unstable region between heel angles of 12° and 20°. If the ship reaches a heel angle of 12° it will flip to the next stable point at 20°. For more information about the Delft University’s research here is the report.

A reference ship, the Delft Feeder, was designed by the Delft University which has the same characteristics as the Dongedijk, except that the freeboard was increased to 4 meters instead of 1.30 m. The GZ curve of this ship shows a dramatic improvement over the Dongedijk’s curve.


This graphic shows the beam-depth ratio B/D of several ships. The Costa Concordia’s B/D ratio is high due to the very wide beam (56 m) of such ships. An increase or high value means a decreased dynamic stability as deck immersion (low freeboard) will be faster which is bad. The Deneb is a somewhat more stable ship then the Dongedijk as it has three layers of containers in the enclosed hold instead of two. However, the B/D ratio is too high and as a consequence the freeboard is low, 1.56 m.


Unfortunately the rules for determining gross tonnage and net tonnage have led to lower freeboards. First generation container ships carried most of their containers below decks going only three high on the hatches. But they were able to keep their containers onboard even when going around Cape Horn in appalling weather.
The ultimate short sea feeder ship in my opinion would look similar to a car carrier and would only carry containers to a max of 8 high in each tier depending on the total of the tier weight. In Europe I believe it is mandatory to record the weights of all containers at loading. The container crane does this automatically.
In Houston 40 years ago we tried to lift a 40 footer off a railway wagon and the brand new 45 tonne ship’s crane wouldn’t look at it. We rejected the container and it was later weigh bridged at 80 tonnes of zinc ingots.


I believe this particular vessel now goes by the name NABIHA DISCOVERY.


Yes you are right, same IMO number as the Deversoir. It is flying the Panamanian flag now.