Niederkassel Sunshine and first hints of summer warmth - that attracts many people outside. The Rhine is not only a popular destination for walkers and recreation seekers, but also for water sports enthusiasts. The jet-ski drivers in Niederkassel not only astonish the spectators but also cause trouble time and again.
At the Rheidter Werth in Niederkassel, a local recreation and landscape conservation area, different interests collide directly. People on land see people on the water as troublemakers and often wonder whether it is even allowed to ride the jet skis, so-called jet skis, on the river.
In fact, jet ski rides on the Rhine are heavily regulated. Nevertheless, they are a highlight for many spectators. They turn up, for example, when the drivers perform a "barrel roll" - in which the jetski driver and his vehicle rotate once around their own axis. The fast-paced slalom rides also cause many passersby to stop. "Nevertheless, there are always people who dislike our hobby and complain for no reason without being informed about the legal background," says a jet ski driver at the Nato ramp. The jet skis can reach 140 kilometers per hour, usually have more than 300 horsepower and cost up to 25,000 Euro.
In the Niederkassel area, however, water-skiing enthusiasts also have their chance. They, too, are allowed to pursue their hobby on the Rhine, pulled by a motorboat. Just as for jet-skiers, there is also a signposted route for them - it runs along the right bank of the Rhine below the Lux shipyard in Mondorf to the Nato ramp north of Rheidt.
Regulatory office cannot intervene
Water sports on the Rhine occasionally cause annoyance among residents, walkers and people seeking recreation, especially in the area of the Rheidter Werth landscape conservation area, but are within the range permitted by law. "I know via social media channels that there are also people in Niederkassel who find the noise level of the personal watercraft annoying," says Heiner Nellen, head of the Niederkassel public order office. "However, we very rarely receive complaints." Nellen attributes this to the fact that the city of Niederkassel and the Ordnungsamt have no legal means of intervening when violations occur. "This falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV), i.e. the water police," Nellen said.
Jet ski riders must follow a number of rules in their high-horsepower hobby, and the personal watercraft are also only allowed in a narrowly defined area. "The area designated as a jet ski route is the left half of the Rhine between Rhine kilometer 666.5km and 667km - on the left bank are the corresponding signs," explains Florian Krekel, head of department Waterways and Shipping Office Rhine. And for those looking for the signs: "The board sign E.22, a jet ski on a blue background, triangular boards and rectangular signs in addition to the board sign indicate the length and width limits of the designated water areas." Only in this area would jet ski riders be allowed to go up and down and perform maneuvers typical of personal watercraft. "Outside this area, only transfers between the operation site and the personal watercraft route are permitted, as well as so-called hiking trips, in which a route point may not be passed more than twice," Krekel describes. "A straight course must be maintained at all times. We expect all users on our waterways to adhere to these specifications and show consideration for each other.“
The watercraft route begins on the left bank of the Rhine at the level of the northern end of Niederkassel's Rathausstrasse and ends at the level of Evonik's port in Lülsdorf. Many other regulations for the water sportsmen are regulated in the ordinance about driving with jet skis on the inland waterways. For example, when passing other road users, other persons in the water, on the shore, regulatory structures, floating or fixed installations or navigation signs, the driver must keep a minimum distance of ten meters and slow down. Accordingly, jet pilots are generally allowed to operate between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., but not before sunrise and after sunset, and only in weather with visibility of more than 1,000 meters. To drive such a vehicle, you need a sport boat license „Binnen“, must be at least 16 years old and comply with numerous regulations.
Original text: Dieter Hombach
Translation: Mareike Graepel