HL Deb 22 July 1980 vol 412 cc377-8WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What agreements at present govern navigation on the Rhine and what amendments, if any, are being made to those agreements in anticipation of the opening of the Rhine-Danube Canal; whether navigation will be open, and under what conditions, to Soviet and other East European (a) naval and (b) merchant ships; and under what conditions do equivalent British and other West European vessels use the internal canal systems of Eastern Europe.


The main international agreements governing navigation on the Rhine are the Revised Convention for Rhine Navigation signed at Mannheim on 17th October, 1968 (the Act of Mannheim), and its Additional Protocol of 25th October, 1972.

The parties to the Act of Mannheim (Belgium, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom) have recently concluded a further Additional Protocol, accompanied by a Protocol of Signature, which was signed in Strasbourg on 17th October, 1979.

Under the terms of the new Protocol, which will enter into force on ratification by all the signatories, navigation as such will continue to be free for all merchant vessels. In addition, vessels belonging to the Rhine navigation (i.e. vessels having the right to fly the flag of a state party to the Protocol and equipped with a document to substantiate this right) will be allowed to trade freely between the Rhine and elsewhere; or to engage in cabotage on the Rhine.

By virtue of the Protocol of Signature to the Additional Protocol, the vessels of all EEC states will be treated in the same way as vessels belonging to the Rhine navigation.

For other vessels, including those from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the conditions under which they may trade between the Rhine and a third state will be laid down in agreements to be concluded between the states concerned after consultation with the Central Rhine Commission. Cabotage by such vessels will be determined by any conditions which may be specified by the Central Rhine Commission. Details of such conditions have yet to be settled.

The Act of Mannheim and the Additional Protocols are concerned only with merchant vessels and do not create any right of access to the Rhine for naval ships.

On the question of use of the internal canal systems of Eastern Europe, the Government cannot speak for other countries. There is no known United Kingdom use of these waters.