In order to carry passengers on voyages in Flensborg Fjord, the ship must meet the safety level following from the EU passenger ship directive.
High and homogeneous safety level
In principle, the same high level of safety must apply in connection with the carriage of passengers, irrespective of where the voyage takes place. However, near-coastal voyages present fewer risks than voyages far from shore. Therefore, all regulations have a risk-based approach, where increased risk is counter-balanced by stricter technical and operational requirements. This principle is, thus, fundamental in both the SOLAS Convention (International Convention for the Safety
of Life at Sea) and EU directives.
The number of passengers, the availabillity of fast assistance, the possibility of reaching shore quickly, the density of ships in the areas as well as the weather and wind conditions are decisive for which operational and technical requirements are needed to acquire the safety level sought for.
A voyage between Denmark and Germany in Flensborg Fjord is, by definition, an international voyage. This means that ships engaged in voyages between Danish and German ports in Flensborg Fjord are covered by SOLAS. But realizing that near-coastal voyages present fewer risks, the flag State can - according to SOLAS - decide which relaxations may be relevant when the ship is no more than 20 nautical miles from the coast. Therefore, a passenger ship on
Flensborg Fjord need not meet the same requirements as if it were, for example, to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
In the autumn of 2013, the Danish Maritime Authority and the German authorities reached a common understanding that ships engaged in voyages between Denmark and Germany on Flensborg fjord must have a safety level corresponding to that following from the EU passenger ship directive. This directive applies to all passenger ships engaged in voyages between ports and regulates especially voyages to sea areas up to 20 nautical miles from land.
Danish or German flag
In general, the flag State approves and certifies the specific ship for its specific use. If a passenger ship is to be approved and certified for operation on Flensborg
Fjord, it must be decided whether the ship is to fly the Danish or the German flag.
In connection with operation on Flensborg Fjord between Denmark and Germany, the safety approval of a ship will in practice be made in close cooperation between the two countries.
Ships approved in accordance with the EU directive on inner waterways
An especially problematic issue has been whether passenger ships can call at and depart from Danish ports if they have been safety approved in accordance with the EU directive on technical regulations for vessels on inner waterways for operation on inner waterways, such as rivers and lakes.
Ships that have been approved only in accordance with the inner waterways regulations must typically upgrade their safety equipment in order to engage in voyages between Denmark and Germany on Flensborg
Fjord. This is so because voyages on inner waterways differ considerably from voyages in open waters.
If a ship navigates rivers and lakes in Germany, it can within a short period of time be grounded on, for example, the river bank from where the passengers can be evacuated. And assistance can reach the scene of the accident quickly. This means, for example, that the requirements for fire-prevention and fire-fighting are not the same as if the ship had been operating in open waters, just as there is no requirement for liferafts or lifejackets for everyone on board these ships. Therefore, the requirements for these ships are more relaxed than they would have been if they were to operate in open waters.
That the ship's hull merely meets the requirements of the EU directive on inner waterways need not be an impediment to voyages in more open waters such as Flensborg
Fjord if the ship complies with the stability requirements stipulated in the EU passenger ship directive, but in most cases a considerable upgrading of the safety equipment on board will be needed.