Station: [5] Special-purpose Vessels on the Rhine

The Rhine is a very busy waterway. Here, as on public roads, certain traffic rules apply – after all, we’re talking about more than 140,000 users – or vessels – a year! And like a motorway, the waterway needs to be surveyed, monitored and maintained. The body responsible for this work is Germany‘s Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration. It employs special-purpose vessels to carry out river works, deal with damage or hazards and maintain the littoral zone. And in case of accidents, the members of the voluntary fire service go to the rescue with their fire-fighting boats. One such fireboat has been based at Emmerich since 1962.

On the left-hand side of this room, you can find out about the technical equipment and surveying instruments used to monitor the Rhine past and present. There’s also a radar unit of the type currently in use on every vessel on the Rhine.

The glass cases straight ahead and on your right present some of the special-purpose vessels deployed to carry out maintenance works along the Rhine and in the river itself: bucket chain dredgers to clear the shipping channel; survey vessels; what’s known as a sheer legs – or hoisting apparatus – and an historic ship mill powered by the current. A particularly impressive exhibit is in the single glass case on the right, towards the back of the room. It’s a treadwheel crane. This crane stood on the river bank outside the town and was used to load and unload ships. It was driven purely by muscle power. The workers stepped inside the wheels and started walking to set it in motion. It was hot work!

When you’ve finished looking around this room, please head up to the second floor. The first room up there is devoted to another occupation entirely dependent on the Rhine – fishing.


Foto: © Claudia Klein