On the basis of practice over more than a hundred years, the Central Commission may be described as having two-fold attributions:
Firstly, it constitutes a standing diplomatic conference within which the representatives of the Member States are able to discuss any matter involving navigation on the Rhine, including revision of the Rhine Convention and the conclusion of new conventions. (The amendments made to the Mannheim Convention and to a number of specific conventions, as for instance social security arrangements and working conditions for Rhine boatmen, and on waste produced during navigation on the Rhine, were negotiated within the CCNR.)
It also constitutes an international organisation with corresponding attributions. These are of three types:
The Central Commission is also competent to investigate any issue involving the promotion of navigation on the Rhine. This attribution is exercised either formally in the form of deliberations adopted by its plenary meeting and its committees, or more informally within the framework of conferences, round-table discussions and other working meetings. Such work may result in various forms of action (recommendation, declaration, memorandum of understanding, etc).
Within this framework, the Commission also carries out studies, drafts documents and publishes information of various kinds, such as statistics and documents on market observation.
For the purpose of implementing its competences, the CCNR is recognised as a legal person under international law. It concluded a headquarters agreement with France on 10 May 1978.