The past few years, Ghent has been building up the tradition that quite some inland navigation vessels halt at port of Ghent. The cruises bring some 20,000 passengers per year to Ghent. A large part of the cruises comes from Germany and Switzerland. The captains and masters speak a diversity of languages. However, when they call at port of Ghent, they are obliged to either communicate in Dutch or in English as far as shipping assistance is concerned.
In 2011, the Dutch and Flemish authorities published a Joint Notice on the working languages in the management area (the Western Scheldt, the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal and the Scheldt until Antwerp) of the Common Nautical Authority. This notice determines that Dutch or English are the official languages to be used in communication by marine telephone with the traffic control centres and other vessels.
In order to guarantee the safety of passengers it is necessary that the captain or master has sufficient mastery of one of these working languages. As a matter of fact, in the past a number of dangerous traffic situations occurred that were caused by an insufficient knowledge of languages. This is why it is expressly required now that the captain or master on board sufficiently understands and speaks Dutch or English. This is also laid down in several Dutch and Belgian shipping regulations.
Have a look at the flyer below, it is distributed among the inland passenger vessels. It equally comprises the original text from the Belgian Law Gazette in three languages (Dutch, English and German).