Natural sedimentation processes cause the Wadden Sea to silt up. The eastern Wadden Sea in particular increasingly shows a rising of the seabed, which means that maintenance of the channel to and from Ameland and Schiermonnikoog according to the Wadden management plan is unfeasible. That is why the channel structurally does not meet the minimum dimensions and (safety) requirements.
The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is the official manager of the channel and the contracting authority. The Department of Public Works is tasked by the government with preserving a minimum width and depth of the channel.
When a channel deteriorates and silts up, operating the timetable becomes increasingly difficult. The accessibility of the islands is at stake, even though compared to 2014 there are 99% more sailings and we transport 16% more passengers, 31% more passenger cars and 54% more freight.
The management plan of the Department of Public Works from 1993 states that the channel must be at least 60m wide and 4.10m deep. [Supplement with Marin 2008 and 2023 findings and dredging contracts. All based on single use of the channel.]
If we compare the measurement data for the channel from 2022 with the data from 2014, the channel has become 33% narrower and 17% shallower. In addition, the meandering process has made the channel 17% longer.
The Department of Public Works has been commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management to carry out dredging work. Early 2023, the Department of Public Works even expanded its dredging capacity with an extra vessel. And that is necessary too: the dredging volume has increased by 500% compared to 20 years ago. However, due to the limitations of the Natura 2000 legislation, this dredged sand cannot be unloaded outside the World Heritage area, which means that it does not take very long before it ends up in the channel again. Dredging is like swimming against the tide.
Recognition of the Holwerd-Ameland channel as a main waterway would mean that the channel can be maintained as if it were a public road, because the Key Planning Decision Waddenzee and Natura 2000 would no longer apply.
Silting up of channels is definitely nothing new. Wagenborg has been advocating for years to join forces in the fight for recognition of the Holwerd-Ameland channel as a main waterway. This would mean that the channel can be maintained as if it were a public road. The condition of the channel has rapidly deteriorated lately. Every day, the captains and skippers of Wagenborg vessels experience that operating the current timetable is irresponsible. Especially in the narrower parts of the channel and when passing each other, the situation becomes increasingly risky. The recent grounding of the Esonborg within the channel markings on the edge of the dredging section was the final straw for Wagenborg and we decided that the situation is no longer safe for our crew and our passengers. Therefore, due to this urgent nature, we sent a request for consent to the State to adjust the timetable.
Recent new research data from the Department of Public Works have made it possible to implement three passing sections along the channel from 1 August, which will be equipped with buoys and a new sounding system. To pass each other safely, the ferries need 1m of water under the keel and a channel width of at least 70m. The Department of Public Works has tested at what water levels these passing sections meet these conditions. That is at a water level of 1.30m below NAP. To ensure safe use of the passing sections under the most common circumstances, a margin of 0.30m has been maintained for draw off in easterly winds. The Department of Public Works based itself on data on draw offs in recent years. Based on this information, the deployment of a second ferry is possible from 1 August under the circumstances mentioned.
The channel would have to meet the dimensional requirements in the Beheerplan Wadden: 50m wide and 3.80m deep.
Due to the continuous deterioration of both channels, WPD has been confronted with instability and inadequate dimensions of both channels. As a result, the shipping company considers it no longer possible to operate the existing timetable in a safe and responsible manner, under the current circumstances. In particular, the number of shipping movements in the channel, the passing of vessels and use of the channel by multiple users can lead to high-risk situations.
After intensive and constructive consultations with various authorities and other parties involved, we are able to implement changes to the adjusted timetable from 1 August. New research data from the Department of Public Works have made it possible to implement three passing sections along the channel, which will be equipped with buoys and a new sounding system. Based on this information, we consider it safe and responsible to pass each other in those sections at certain water levels. This makes it possible to deploy a second ferry at high water. By switching to a 1 1/4-hour timetable, the ships are given the space and time to pass each other safely in the passing sections.
The adjusted timetable has been drawn up on the basis of a 1 1/4-hour timetable. From Monday to Saturday, along the Ameland-Holwerd route, the ferry will make six journeys and on Monday to Friday the Fast Ferry service seven journeys, in accordance with a fixed timetable. For the Schiermonnikoog-Lauwersoog route, this would come out at five ferry crossings and four Fast Ferry crossings, respectively. You can consult the adjusted timetable that applies to Ameland and Schiermonnikoog here.
In addition, a second ferry will be deployed on the Ameland-Holwerd route from 1 August, if the water level is at least 1m below NAP. In practice, this amounts to 2 to 3 departures per day for the second ferry. The departures of the second ferry will be listed daily on the Departure overview on the website.
The improved adjusted timetable will come into effect on September 8, 2023 and will be valid until December 31, 2023.
The new timetable has an initial duration from 1 August to 31 December 2023.
The new passing sections that the Department of Public Works has designated, make it possible to deploy a second ferry at a water level of at least 1m - NAP. In practice, in addition to the current timetable, this amounts to 2 to 3 departures per day with the second ferry. This improves the accessibility of Ameland. Passengers will be able to travel to and from Ameland at more convenient times. The 1 1/4-hour timetable will reduce delays and will give the ferries time to safely pass each other in the passer sections.
The Fast Ferry service will also use the passing sections; these adjustments mean it will be better able to sail as scheduled. Here, the delays due to the adjusted timetable introduced on 27 June will decrease. This makes it easier for commuters, students and islanders to travel. You can consult the adjusted timetable, which applies to the Fast Ferry for Ameland and Schiermonnikoog here.
No, this does not remove the cause of the deteriorating channel. However, the 1 1/4-hour timetable and the use of passing sections are unavoidable, in order to guarantee the safety of our crew and passengers. We are pleased that the adjustment as of 1 August is an improvement compared to the previous temporary timetable. However, we do realise that the measures have huge consequences for our passengers, the islanders and the local entrepreneurs. It is up to the national government to come up with a structural solution for the accessibility of Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.
In principle, it will be temporary. Every year, Wagenborg draws up a transport plan with a timetable that is approved by the government. The proposed adjustment to the timetable is therefore an adjustment to the 2023 transport plan. The 2024 transport plan is currently being drawn up by Wagenborg and will be submitted to the Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management for approval on 12 September 2023. Wagenborg will base this plan on the timetable from the 2023 transport plan (i.e. before the proposed measures).
No. In principle, Wagenborg operates a timetable according to an annual transport plan that is approved by the government. This means that Wagenborg cannot simply adjust the timetable unilaterally without good reason. For adjustments to the timetable – as is currently the case with the structurally unsafe, poor condition of the channel – Wagenborg has to get the consent of the State Secretary for Infrastructure & Water Management, in accordance with the concession conditions.
By adjusting the timetable based on single use of the channel, we can immediately guarantee the safety of our passengers and our crew. Of course, we also realise that this is not sustainable in the long term. We hope to get the government to urgently take action to ensure structural, long-term safety of the channel.
New research data from the Department of Public Works have made it possible to implement three passing sections along the channel. In addition to installing buoys in the passing sections, the Department of Public Works will conduct weekly soundings to closely monitor developments. Based on this information, we consider it safe and responsible to adjust the timetable accordingly.
The Department of Public Works has created three passing sections on straight stretches of the channel. To be able to pass each other, the ferries need 1 meter of water under the keel and the width of the channel must be 70m. The Department of Public Works has indicated with a water level of 1.30m - NAP, the passing sections at the Zuiderspruit / VA10-VA12 and VA19 - VA27 are acceptable. With this data, the second ferry will be deployed at a water level from 1m - NAP.
To ensure safe use of the passing sections under the most common circumstances, a margin of 0.30m has been maintained for draw off in easterly winds. The Department of Public Works based itself on data on draw offs in recent years. The Department of Public Works has also installed buoys and will carry out weekly soundings to closely monitor developments.
Apart from the three passing sections, it remains irresponsible for the ferries to pass and overtake each other along the rest of the channel due to the limited dimensions. Single use, i.e. one-directional traffic and an overtaking prohibition, will therefore remain in force.
No, this is not possible for safety reasons. The second ferry is deployed when the tide allows. Please consult the Departures overview for the most up-to-date information on sailings for that day.
The new timetable of the Fast Ferry service is aligned with the 1 1/4-hour timetable of the ferry service. Now that we can use the passing sections, the timetable of the Fast Ferry service can be followed, as stated in the Departures overview (subject to exceptions).
This method, where two ferries sail behind each other, is only possible if a waiting area is created in Holwerd. This requires a permit and is therefore not (yet) possible.
The changes of the adjusted timetable have huge consequences. Because we want to keep the islands as accessible as possible and improve it where possible, we will deploy a second ferry as soon as possible at a water level of 1m – NAP. In practice, this will be 2 to 3 times a day. This improves accessibility.
Yes, you can. We do everything we can to get as many passengers as possible to their destination. We keep the islands accessible according to our timetable. At the same time, we will deploy a second ferry as often as possible.
From Monday to Saturday, along the Ameland-Holwerd route, the ferry will make six journeys and on Monday to Friday the Fast Ferry service will make seven journeys, in accordance with a fixed timetable. For the Schiermonnikoog-Lauwersoog route, this would come out at five regular ferry crossings and four Fast Ferry crossings, respectively. You can consult the adjusted timetable that applies to Ameland and Schiermonnikoog here.
In addition, a second ferry will be deployed on the Ameland-Holwerd route from 1 August if the water level is at least 1m – NAP. In practice, this amounts to 2 to 3 departures per day for the second ferry. The departures of the second ferry will be listed daily on the Departure overview on the website.
Were you unable to find the answer to your question in our FAQ? We are here to help. Our Customer Service can be reached by telephone every day from Monday to Saturday from 10.00 to 18.00 hours, and on Sundays from 9.00 to 15.00 hours, on 0900-9238 (local rate). You can also e-mail your question to email@example.com.
Information about connecting buses: 0900-9292 (€0.90 p/m) or www.9292ov.nl.
We are expanding the emergency scheme in consultation with the municipality, allowing islanders on board who need to travel to or from the island for urgent reasons. Doctors and veterinarians can be given priority by the municipality; they can notify the relevant port office of their status. A distinction is made between very urgent and (less) urgent.
We did not have a choice with regard to the timing. The report by the independent maritime consultancy MARIN has been leading in this decision. After a request for advice on the proposed measures, we had to wait another 4 weeks for a response from the State Secretary, which caused an extra delay. For WPD this is also a very unfortunate time to limit the timetable.