The FOT and ship navigation in Switzerland – full speed ahead

The triple-decker passenger boat “Berner Oberland” on Lake Thun
The BLS operates scheduled boat services on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.

Ship navigation plays an important role in tourism and excursion traffic. The 150 or so ships of the federally licensed passenger ship companies carry around 13 million passengers every year on Swiss lakes, rivers and border waterways. Sport and recreational navigation on Swiss lakes and rivers is also popular: today about 96,000 sports and recreational boats are licensed in Switzerland. But shipping also plays a major role in freight traffic: around 120 cargo ships carry about 2.5 million tonnes of material annually on Swiss waters. Rhine shipping is particularly significant for freight traffic and transporting vital supplies.

The FOT is the regulatory body for matters relating to shipbuilding, shipping services and the accreditation of nautical personnel, and formulates the appropriate regulations. It also monitors the federally licensed passenger shipping companies, i.e. the scheduled boat services on inland rivers, lakes and border waterways, checking whether they comply with the applicable norms and standards. Other shipping is monitored by the cantons, and the cantonal shipping authorities are the point of contact for those who use Switzerland’s rivers and lakes.

The FOT is also on the international shipping committees for Lake Geneva, Lake Constance and the Ticino lakes, modifying and drawing up new regulations for the border waterways. International shipping agreements regulate passenger and freight services on the Rhine and deep-sea shipping. FOT representatives are instrumental on the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine in modifying and formulating new shipping regulations. The Swiss Maritime Navigation Office SMNO is the point of contact for deep-sea shipping.