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inland waterways inspections

Joint cross-border controls on European rivers

Published date

River cruises inspected by Police, Labour, Customs and Transport Authorities.

Press release

6th of October 2023 

270 enforcement officers from Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Slovakia undertook coordinated inspections of river cruise ships last week. They were coordinated and supported by the European Labour Authority (ELA) and the waterborne law-enforcement network AQUAPOL. 

In this joint cross-border action, police, labour, customs and transport authorities simultaneously inspected river cruise ships on European waterways: Danube, Rhine, Seine, Rhône, Garonne, Havel, Main, Main-Danube Canal, Elbe Lateral Canal, and rivers in the Amsterdam and Rotterdam region. Officers and inspectors were deployed to other participating countries to support the joint cross-border controls. 

36 ships and 38 companies were checked, and their employees were interviewed. The suspected offenses include undeclared work, which means that workers lacked social security protection; illegal employment, as migrant workers were employed without the necessary working permit or visa; breaches of minimum wage rules; workers affected by incorrect working and resting time registrations; and other labour law and nautical offenses. Legal proceedings have been initiated, and at least 65 of these instances require further investigation by the authorities of the involved Member States. 

The aim of these inspections was to tackle serious labour and nautical offenses and to protect the ships’ personnel from labour violations, such as poor working and living conditions, undeclared work, underpayments, longer working hours than permitted. Such breaches also affect the safety on board and could jeopardise the passenger and boat safety on European waterways. 

Background information: 

About 48,000 workers are employed in the inland waterways transport sector (nautical and other service staff, for example, in accommodation, hospitality, catering, cleaning, etc.). At least 1.6 million tourists cruise European rivers on more than 400 ships each year. 

The multi-lateral operation was the first of this kind after the covid-19 pandemic. ELA and AQUAPOL will continue to promote cooperation among enforcement authorities in the inland waterways sector and support cross-border inspections. Together with their partners, they remain committed to promoting compliance particularly with the European labour mobility legislation and supporting national authorities to ensure that the workers’ and employers’ rights and obligations are respected.