Astrea / News / The new Flemish Shipping Decree sets the course...


The new Flemish Shipping Decree sets the course for a uniform shipping regime for the Flemish inland waterways and ports

Publications | Ruud De Houwer

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,
consetetur sadipscing elitr,
sed diam nonumy eirmod
tempor invidunt ut labore et

The Flemish Shipping Decree enters into force today. We give you a short introduction to this new Decree and an overview of the aspects that will be regulated by the Decree.

As of 1 June 2022, the management and use of inland waterways and shipping in the Flemish Region will be governed by the “Scheepvaartdecreet” or Shipping Decree (Official Gazette 6 May 2022). The decree coordinates and codifies existing rules in this respect, updates outdated regulations (e.g. on increasing safety on the Flemish waterways) where necessary, and enshrines a number of possibilities as to enforcement.

European legislation, in particular Directive 2009/18/EC of 23 April 2009 establishing the fundamental principles governing the investigation of accidents in the maritime transport sector and amending Council Directive 1999/35/EC, is also (partially) implemented through the establishment of an Investigation Body for Marine Accidents and Incidents on Inland Waterways, analogous to the (federal) Maritime Safety Board.

The focus point of the Decree is an equal navigation regime in the Flemish Region, regardless of where the ship sails. The Shipping Decree will thus function as a uniform legal regime for all Flemish shipping routes, notwithstanding how the management thereof is organised.

The pursuit of uniformity in the Shipping Decree is reflected among other things in its material scope, since the rules of the Decree will apply to all vessels sailing within its territorial scope (i.e. the waterways within the Flemish Region, as well as the ports), regardless of the type of vessel. However, an exception will sometimes be made for seagoing vessels, since the rules of the Decree apply specifically to inland vessels (e.g. for the transport of dangerous goods along the inland waterways and the safety of inland vessels).

In addition, the Shipping Decree also regulates the Flemish ports, crucial bodies for inland navigation and shipping in Flanders. For the ports, too, a large part of the regulation has already been laid down by decree (in the so-called Ports Decree). However, there are a number of matters that will be regulated by the Shipping Decree, and as such the Decree will also be applicable in the four major Flemish ports. It concerns the clearing of stranded, sunken and unattended/unmanaged ships and other obstacles, and the rules on shipping accidents.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that also the privileges that fall under the competence of the Regions are now included in the Shipping Decree, such as the port dues, pilotage dues, and fees for the use of shipping guidance systems. The decree stipulates that these will rank equally with the highest-ranking privileges under federal law (i.e. under the Shipping Code).

Even though the new Decree brings some harmonisation and fills in gaps as far as matters under Flemish competence are concerned, in practice it will often still be necessary to consult both Flemish and federal legislation, given the fragmentation of competence areas between the two levels.

For any questions regarding the Shipping Decree and its impact, Astrea’s transport and logistics team is always available.