Basel, der Rhein, Schifffahrt (und Schwimmer*innen). Foto/Photo: TES.

Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine and Basel

On 24 March 1815, the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) decided on freedom of navigation on the Rhine and its tributaries.

One year later, the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine was founded with its seat in Mainz. The Mainz Act of 31 March 1831 confirmed the principle of freedom of navigation on the Rhine.  In 1860, the headquarter was moved to Mannheim.

With the end of France’s membership after the Frankfurt Peace (1871), the Central Commission mainly fulfilled the role of a German-Dutch bilateral body. France no longer bordered the Rhine after the annexation of Alsace by Germany.

The Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 restructured the Central Commission. The seat moved to Strasbourg, where it is still situated.

The Central Commission resumed its work on 20 November 1945 after the suspension in 1940. Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands are members nowadays. Decisions must be taken unanimously and implemented simultaneously.

The regulation of navigation is based on the following principles: free access to the sea, free movement of authorised vessels on the Rhine and its tributaries, a guarantee of navigability and avoidance of obstacles, equal treatment of certificates, customs formalities, the transport of dangerous goods and other regulations governing navigation on the Rhine.

In 1904, the first large transport ship arrived in Basel, pulled by a tugboat. Since then, its importance has increased enormously. The Rhine ports of Basel, Birsfelden and Muttenz are the gateways for Switzerland to the world seas via the Rotterdam, Antwerp and Amsterdam seaports.

Seven to eight million tonnes of goods and more than 100 000 container units are traded annually via these Rhine ports. Rhine ships take about two days for the 800 km-plus journeys from Basel to Rotterdam and return in four days.

(Source and further information: Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine,