Dozens of Amsterdam tour boats banned from canals; Operators outraged

An Amsterdam canal boat (Photo: Tezd/Wikimedia Commons). (An Amsterdam canal boat (Photo: Tezd/Wikimedia Commons))

Dozens of tour boats will be banned from the Amsterdam canals as of January 1st, 2020. Licenses and permits were redistributed in what responsible alderman Udo Kock considers a successful action. Affected operators are furious. They call the redistribution a "slaughter" that will cost them millions and likely leave them bankrupt, the Volkskrant reports.

Amsterdam had to redistribute the tour boat licenses - in this case for the period 2020 to 2030 - to include new operators due to a ruling b the EU Court of Justice. The court ruled that Amsterdam can not issue licenses indefinitely A third of the 135 licenses now go to new operators. The municipality also has to hold to European rules and wants to address the noisy and crowded canals. In three years all tour boats on Amsterdam canals must be electric. 

It is not yet clear who the new operators will be. But the losers in the redistribution already know who they are. Many small tour boat companies are particularly affected, according to the Volkskrant. Most of them are deeply saddened. Only a few of their boats can continue to sail, the rest will have to be sold off. But they expect that most of their boats will end up in the scrap yard. 

The licenses were handed out in two categories - regular (75 licenses) and image-determined (60 licenses). This was to make sure that not all beautiful classical boats have to clear the field for new, modern ones. The regular licenses were handed out in a lottery, in which all established tour boat companies lost a significant part of their licenses. Established tour boat companies also lost out in the image-determined category. Many were told that their boats were not image-determining enough. 

Tomas de Smidt of medium sized tour boat company Smidtje has to get rid of eight boats, including ones he recently converted to electrically powered, because the city did not consider them imaginative enough. Thirty smaller companies represented by Frans Heijne were also hit hard. "Of all our ships, only two made it", Heijne said to AT5. Ramon van der Storm of Blue Boat Company is considering turning to court.