The Central Commission endeavours to ensure the unity of the legal regime governing navigation on the Rhine. To achieve this, it not only adopts common rules but also works to ensure that these rules are interpreted and applied in a similar manner in all Member States.
To this end, the contracting States to the Revised Convention for Rhine Navigation have, via the CCNR, provided an official interpretation for this Convention. The Central Commission in particular adopted a resolution relating to the principles of interpretation of the Mannheim Convention in 2003.
The Central Commission may also seek (subject to formal ratification by the Member States) changes to the Mannheim Convention by means of the adoption of additional protocols. Seven additional protocols have been adopted to date.
Lastly, an amicable settlement procedure for disputes relating to the application or implementation of Rhine regulations is provided for in Article 45 of the Mannheim Convention.
This procedure enables any Member State, but also any individual or legal entity and any public bodies with a legitimate interest to file a complaint with the Legal Committee regarding the application or implementation of the regulations adopted by the CCNR. This is a non-legal avenue that can be taken independently of administrative or legal suits that may be filed in a Member State. The rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies does not need to be satisfied for a complaint to be examined.
The procedure is detailed in the Regulation on the right to file complaints. It broadly breaks down into the following steps. The State concerned is initially notified of the complaint and has a period of three months in which to submit its observations. Following this period, the Secretariat passes the complaint and the observations of the State concerned to the Legal Committee which looks at the arguments at hand and proposes a draft resolution that is subsequently adopted in plenary session.
The Mannheim Convention limits access to the Rhine market to "vessels belonging to the Rhine Navigation". Additional Protocol No. 2 (Protocol of Signature of Additional Protocol No. 2 to said Convention of 17 October 1979) specifies that a vessel belonging to the navigation of the Rhine is a vessel that has the right to fly the flag of one of the Member States and can substantiate this right by means of a document certifying that the vessel belongs to the navigation of the Rhine. The process for issuing such certificates is detailed in a 1984 implementing regulation. The conditions established for the issue of the certificate are designed to ensure the existence of a genuine link between the vessel and the State issuing said certificate.
The Protocol of Signature of Additional Protocol No. 2 extends the treatment enjoyed by vessels belonging to the navigation on the Rhine to vessels that has the right to fly the flag of any Member State of the European Economic Community. Council Regulation (EEC) No 2919/85 of 17 October 1985 laying down the conditions for access to the arrangements under the Revised Convention for the navigation of the Rhine relating to vessels belonging to the Rhine navigation incorporates the Rhine Implementing Regulation into the community legal order.
Access to Rhine cabotage (traffic between two Rhine ports) is thus open to vessels that have the right to fly the flag of a Member State of the CCNR or of the EU and that can substantiate this right by means of a document certifying that the vessel belongs to the navigation of the Rhine, the terms and conditions of issue of which are set out in the Implementing Regulation of the CCNR and Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2919/85.
The prosperity of the navigation of the Rhine also requires a clear legal framework to guarantee fair trading. Although it lacks formal powers in this area, the CCNR is endeavouring to develop a role as a legal information and monitoring tool to ensure a certain transparency to the legal framework underpinning inland navigation. This effort depends on the willingness of Member States to provide and set out their domestic rules. It also requires cooperation with the European Union, which now regulates a large part of this area. Through this work, the CCNR looks for any gaps or misalignments in existing rules governing international inland navigation, and makes suggestions.
The Legal Committee is notably working on a crew certificate that would document that the crew’s position as regards their work and stay permits is in order and would in return provide them with greater freedom of movement professionally.
The clarification of the legal framework also requires work to harmonise private law rules applicable to inland navigation in Europe. The CCNR, via its Legal Committee, has been behind many international conventions. In particular, the Budapest Convention on the Contract for the Carriage of Goods by Inland Waterway (CMNI) of 22 June 2001 and the Strasbourg Convention on the Limitation of Liability in Inland Navigation (CLNI) of 4 November 1988 were adopted on the basis of an initiative of the Legal Committee. The Committee is currently working on revising the CLNI via a special working group. The main purpose of the revision is to extend the scope of the Convention to all European states.
Committee Chairman: Mr. SUTER, Deputy Commissioner for Switzerland
Secretariat: Ms. TOURNAYE
Working group: CLNI/EG (Governmental expert group for the revision of the CLNI convention)