General > What is RIS? > Description

River Information Services (RIS) are information services designed to enhance safety and efficiency of inland waterway transport (IWT) by optimising traffic and transport processes. Focal aspect is a swift demand oriented electronic data transfer between water and shore through real-time exchange of information. RIS therefore aim to streamline the exchange of information between all IWT stakeholders. Since 2005, an EU framework directive provides minimum requirements for RIS implementation and agreed RIS standards to enable cross-border compatibility of national systems. The European waterways affected by the RIS Directive are illustrated in the following picture:

Policy perspective

The development of RIS, in combination with cost-effective and environmentally friendly logistics operations, enhances the competitive edge of inland waterway transport in the supply chain. The policy importance of RIS is presented in various EU policy papers, i.e.EC White paper, TEN-T Guidelines, NAIADES, Logistics Action Plan.
In 2015 the EC launched the Digital Inland Waterways Activity (DINA) initiative as part of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy of the Junkers Commission. Goal of the DINA initiative is to digitize information flows in IWT with the aim to allow for seamless integration of IWT in multimodal logistic chains.

Legal and common framework 

An EU framework directive (EC/2005/44) provides minimum requirements to enable cross-border compatibility of national systems. Comprehensive and international guidelines for RIS are continuously developed to harmonise the existing standards for particular river information systems and services within a common framework.

Many institutions and RIS experts are involved to optimize and harmonize various information services. Numerous services relevant to RIS are already sustained, particularly the use of Notices to Skippers, the Electronic Reporting of voyage-, cargo- and persons on board related information, Inland Electronic Navigational Charts (IENCs) on board and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) for vessel tracking and tracing.

RIS objectives:
  • Enhancement of safety in inland ports and rivers.
  • Enhance the efficiency of inland navigation - optimise the resource management of the waterborne transport chain by enabling information exchange between vessels, lock and bridges, terminals and ports.
  • Better and more effective use of the inland waterway infrastructure - providing information on the status of fairways.
  • Environmental protection - providing traffic and transport information for an efficient calamity abatement process.
  • Better integration of IWT into multimodal supply chains trough accurate and timely information to support transport management.
  • Information on fairways to plan, execute and monitor voyages by boat masters and fleet managers (e.g., water levels, aids to navigation, fairway information, opening hours of locks etc). The information comprise geographical, hydro-meteo, and traffic related data;
  • Traffic information services comprise information on vessel positions to allow for tactical or strategic planning;
  • Traffic management aims at optimising the use of the infrastructure as well as facilitating safe navigation, especially at VTS Centers, as well as at locks and bridges;
  • Calamity abatement services are responsible for registering vessels and their transport data at the beginning of a trip and updating the data during the voyage with the help of a ship reporting system. In case of an accident, the responsible authorities are capable of providing the data immediately to the rescue and emergency teams;
  • Information for transport management includes estimated times of arrival (ETA's) provided by boat masters and fleet managers based on fairway information making it possible to plan resources for port and terminal processes. Information on cargo and fleet management basically comprises two types of information: information on the vessels and the fleet and detailed information on the cargo transported;
  • Statistics and customs services: the RIS improves and facilitates the collection of inland waterway statistical data in the Member States;
  • Waterway charges and port dues: the travel data of the ship can be used to automatically calculate the charge and initiate the invoicing procedure.
Operational perspective

There is a growing need for information exchanges between stakeholders in inland navigation:
  • Traffic-related information benefits all parties when it comes to safety.
  • Transport-related information, which focuses mainly on efficiency.