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Last ferry before the Danube Delta
Ferry over the Mbam near Bafia (Cameroon)

A ferry ( mhd. Vere ; to mhd. Vern , ahd. Ferian , 'go by ship') is a means of transport that is used to cross a body of water .

Ferry types

Ferries differ according to the type of construction (for example ferry, barge or ponte) as well as to the area of ​​application and mode of operation and, with the exception of suspension ferries , are watercraft . According to the transport task, a distinction is made between passenger ferries , car ferries and rail ferries (trajectory ships).

Passenger ferries differ from other passenger ships in that they focus on traffic and transport, i.e. H. the ferry ride itself is primarily used to reach the shore on the other side of the water. Several landing stages can be approached or the same bank can be repeated. Ferry traffic can be defined as the usually scheduled transport of people and / or goods by means of a watercraft between at least two ports or landing stages that are separated by rivers, lakes or marginal seas.

A ferry point is the entirety of access roads, landing stages, ferry (s) and route. In most cases, devices are required that enable the transition between the ferry and the bank: to compensate for different water levels and loading conditions or to bridge shallow banks. These include, for example, landing flaps on the ferry and landing bridges on the shore.

Types according to application

Sea-going ferries

RoPax 55 on the North Sea (2016)

Sea-going ferries or ferry ships operate worldwide. There are a number of different types of ships that are used as ferries, depending on the length of the route, the required capacity, as well as speed and seaworthiness. The area of ​​use with rough seas and stronger winds as well as the different legal framework conditions for the operation of the ships, which take into account, fundamentally require more extensive requirements for the construction and equipment of the same than those to be met by inland ferries. The mostly larger distances to be covered within the ferry connections and the often complete lack of alternative land transport connections (such as bridges or tunnels ), but also in order to be able to operate unsubsidized ferry connections economically, are often larger ferries at sea, sometimes very large high transport capacities at low cycle rates.

In maritime shipping , so-called RoRo ships are often used for goods transport , which transport goods trains, trucks or just their trailers on or below deck. If passengers are also to be taken along, this is referred to as a RoPax ship .

Inland ferries

Polish side wheel motor ferry “Bez Granic” across the Oder between Güstebieser Loose (D) and Gozdowice (PL), 2018

Ferries in the inland waterways operating on rivers, canals, lakes and harbors. Ferry stations serve as part of local public (passenger) transport to connect traffic across water as an alternative to bridges or tunnels. The ferry usually runs according to the schedule and for a fee, but at least regularly and within fixed times.

On most inland ferries, the wheelhouse is located downstream (the ferryman has his back to the valley) in the middle of the vehicle. Ferries with the wheelhouse in the middle above the roadway on a kind of bridge (old ferry Loreley) or even with two wheelhouses (one for each direction of travel) are less common. Inland ferries in Germany are marked with a capital "F" and must be approved as a ferry by the responsible authorities.

The right to assign a ferry station (historically: Fährregal) is exercised in Germany by the individual countries through the regulations in the respective water management law. The right to operate a commercial ferry point across a river or other body of water was referred to in Germany in the Middle Ages as the right to ferry .

In flowing waters, most of the ferries run across the river and act as a crossing point like a bridge. In rare cases, usually where an attractive path connection is missing at least on one bank, a "longitudinal ferry" is built. A longitudinal ferry has been crossing around half of the S-shaped Schlögener Schlinge of the Danube since around 1990 , on a 3.9 km stretch between Au and Grafenau, both on the left bank, with a catamaran since 2017 .

High speed ferries

In order to be able to travel at high speed, ferry lines are sometimes operated with so-called high speed craft. The hydrofoils that were often used in the past have largely been replaced by hovercraft , monohull high-speed ferries and catamarans .

On the Dover - Calais connection across the English Channel , the hovercraft were in direct competition with the shuttle and Eurostar trains that use the Eurotunnel . Although the hovercraft had been well used and made high profits by then, the Hoverspeed shipping company retired the last two hovercrafts in October 2000. This was justified with the lack of spare parts and the outdated design. Since then, catamarans have been the fastest ferry across the English Channel. The crossing with them, including loading and unloading, takes just under an hour longer than with the hovercraft.

Ferries are also operated at high speed on inland lakes, for example the Friedrichshafen – Konstanz catamaran .

Ferries not moving freely

Some ferries that are not moving freely do not have their own drive. For example, yaw ferries and roller ferries use the current of a river or estuary to cross it, and are therefore very environmentally friendly means of transport. Cable and chain ferries as well as suspension ferries have their own drive.

Giers cable ferry

Gierseilfähre Belgern across the Elbe

Greed cable ferries use the power of the flowing water of rivers from by slanting her body adjust to the flow (ie "lusting"), in order to obtain advance toward the desired shore. There are several possible designs.

At one end of the ferry two so-called yaw ropes converge to a point, from which a third rope leads upstream to an anchoring point in the water near a bank. Two winches on the ferry allow the two arms of this "Y" to be shortened to adjust the angle of the hull in the current. Buoys carry the rope on the surface of the water and act as a marker to prevent ships from crossing the rope. The cruising boat trip along the river always passes the control station when the ferry is on the river side near which the rope is anchored.

In the other design, the ferry hangs on a trolley that can move along a suspension cable stretched over the river above the water. Here, watercraft traveling upstream or downstream can pass the ferry, regardless of which bank it is on. The prerequisite is that the rope has been stretched high enough above the water level.

Taxi ferry

Roller ferry in Grohnde on the Oberweser with high ropes and yaw ropes ( map )

Roller ferries are a variant of the yaw ferry, in which a steel cable is not anchored in the river, but rather (mostly over water on masts) stretched from one bank to the other. One or more pulleys run on this fixed rope, from which ropes lead to the ferry. The roller ferry itself can change its angle of attack to the current and thus use the current as a drive. There are several methods of changing the angle of attack:

  • Two ropes are used. Each has a role at its end that runs on the bank rope. The angle of attack against the current is controlled by the length of the two yaw ropes (as can be seen in the photo of the Grohnde ferry).
  • The ferry only has one yaw rope, which also runs on a pulley on the bank rope. A force is applied via oars that are placed against the current, which turns the taxiway against the current.
  • Depending on the direction of travel, the yaw rope can also be attached to a different point on the ferry, so that the position of the ferry changes in relation to the current and thus the direction of travel.

The height of the bank rope allows correspondingly tall ships to pass the control station downstream / upstream. Both methods are and have been used for large roller ferries, e.g. B. for the former roller ferry in Melk , which could accommodate up to 10 cars.

There are numerous small and large roller ferries. B. on the Upper Weser . In Basel, too, four taxi ferries are operated across the Rhine (see Basel ferries ). In Ottensheim an der Donau there has also been a roller ferry since 1871, the so-called "Ottensheim wire rope bridge". In the Wachau there is the Spitz – Arnsdorf roller ferry and the WeißenkirchenSt. Lorenz roller ferry . The Korneuburg – Klosterneuburg ferry has been operating further downstream since 1935 . This ferry has a load capacity of 25 tons, 160 people and four cars can be loaded. Historically, there were other roller ferries on the Danube that translated vehicles:

Cable and chain ferries

Manually operated cable ferry across
Fortgrøft ( map )

Crossings can also be made by cable ferries, which move through the water on anchored steel cables - chains are also possible - and are therefore always firmly connected to both banks. The difference to the current-driven ferries is that cable ferries move by means of their own drive on a rope or a chain. Two ropes can be used for this: the carrying rope, on which the ferries are guided and keep them on course, and the driving rope - or a chain, as on the Ketzin ferry - which is used to drive. There are several ferry routes in Scandinavia where the ferries are guided by ropes but are self-propelled by propellers.

Adelsöleden cable ferry over a
tributary of the Mälaren in Greater Stockholm , Sweden (video, map )

The cable ferries are almost always operated by a ferryman , rarely using a remote control from the shore. One advantage of these ferries is that they can operate even in stronger currents - safely guided by the support cable. A ferry guided on a rope and powered by muscle power with a mooring rod can be used in Bad Kösen . There are also cable ferries on the Stör and the Siebeneichen ferry in the Duchy of Lauenburg in Schleswig-Holstein .

Around ten to twenty chain ferries around the world are well documented, most of them in Germany and England. For example, three parallel chain ferries for 73 cars each connect Plymouth and Torpoint on the Tamar over a distance of 600 meters. The Carrick Roads waterway in Cornwall is crossed by the historic King Harry Ferry ; as a car ferry it connects the villages of Feock and Philleigh. Two more powerful chain ferries can also be found in central and eastern southern England : The floating bridge in Cowes on the Isle of Wight has transported 138 million passengers and many vehicles with eight different ferries since 1859 (as of 2016). The Sandbanksferry , which first operated in 1926, leads 310 m over the entrance from the sea into Poole Harbor and offers space for 52 cars. In Germany, a historic chain ferry is in operation in Mannheim, in the Sandhofer Altrhein port area. The car and passenger ferry there has been in operation for 115 years and is powered by an old 12 HP Farymann diesel engine. The load capacity is given as around ten tons or 45 passengers.

Transporter bridge

Suspension ferries hang under a bridge structure and float across the water. There are examples of this in northern Germany in Rendsburg under the Rendsburg high bridge and on the Oste . There are eight suspension ferries worldwide.

Catenary ferry

Overhead line ferries are hermaphrodites: They are electrically powered, are locally bound to an area under the overhead contact line that feeds them - a trolley or sliding device with sliders usually makes two-pole electrical contact - so they do not move freely. However, no relevant force is exerted on the ship by the overhead line, which is controlled autonomously.

Drive of free-moving ferries

Free ferries regularly have their own drive (e.g. propellers ). You are not bound by location and do not necessarily have a fixed ferry route. Only free-moving ferries are permitted on many large rivers and lakes.

Common drive types

With many free-moving ferries the drives are arranged diagonally - with river ferries one upstream side (to the mountain) and one downstream side (to the valley) - or they have four drives (two in each head). Due to the arrangement of the drives a double-ended ferry is also closely fairway very agile and can turn on the spot.

The following drive types are widespread: rudder propeller (the screw sits firmly on a rotating shaft), water jet drive , Voith-Schneider drive (rotating disc with up to five adjustable blades, plate diameter 1.0–2.1 m) and Azipods.

Electric ferries

Ferry ship Ellen

From July 11, 1908 until it was blown up and sunk by German troops at the beginning of March 1945, a 30 m long ferry with a 9.5 × 15 m platform with accumulator drive drove across the Rhine from Godesberg to Niederdollendorf (today: Rhine ferry Bad Godesberg – Niederdollendorf ). The ferry was a twin screw ship. 16 × 10 battery cells gave an average of 200 V. The two loading flaps were each moved by a "three-horse" electric motor. <<

Another special form was the solar ferry , two types of which operate on the Untersee part of Lake Constance : the smaller island of Reichenau between the island of Reichenau and Mannenbach and the larger Helio solar ferry from Gaienhofen .

The world's first battery-powered car ferry Ampere (120 cars + 360 passengers) went into operation in 2015 in Norway between Lavik and Oppedal north of Bergen . The lithium-ion battery set with a total of 1 MWh would last with the two electric motors (each 450 kW output) for some crossings per 6 km route, but hardly for all 34 trips per day. At both berths on both sides of the fjord, the battery is charged for around 10 minutes each. reloaded. For this purpose, a 0.26 MWh battery is installed as a buffer at both points so as not to overload the local network. The project name was ZeroCat

Another battery-powered car ferry went into operation in June 2017 in the port city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

The Ellen is an electrically operated ferry in Denmark . The Ærøfærgerne ferry began operating in August 2019 as what was probably the world's largest fully electric ferry at the time.

Operation by muscle power, boat ferry

An open ferry built for the transport of people, which is moved by muscle power, is called a punt ferry in Germany (§ 1 No. 2 of the Ferry Operation Ordinance ). An auxiliary drive can be built in or attached. Boat ferries are only used during the day. Numerous small rope ferries and some chain ferries around the world are operated by hand, often with cranks.

In the water park on Vienna's Danube Island , a small ferry only carries two people across a shallow play pond; Pulled by hand on a thick rope that runs through two east ends on the deck of the ferry.

In some of these barge ferries, rudder power is used as the drive. On the island of Rügen, for example, the Moritzdorf rowing ferry transports pedestrians and cyclists between Baabe and Moritzdorf . Another rowboat ferry operates on the Müggelspree between Berlin-Rahnsdorf and Berlin-Müggelheim . It is operated by the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) as line F 24 and is the shortest ferry line in Berlin . When Ferry Kronsnest serves sculling as driving.

Some hand-operated cable ferries for pedestrians, cyclists and cars lead across Skjern Å and its side arm Fortgrøft in the Skjern nature area . Brandenburg's only manual cable ferry connects the districts of Ranzig and Leißnitz across the Spree .

In Venice, there are still several traditional gondolas , known as traghetti (ferries), that cross the Grand Canal - the existing seats are only used by tourists.

Sailing ferry

Historically, ferry boats were also operated with sails .

Double-ended ferry

Double-ended ferry on the Warnow
Free-moving double-ended ferry on the Mediterranean between Malta and Gozo

In double-ended ferries, the bow and stern are symmetrical, so that the ferry can drive forwards as well as backwards and has the same maneuverability in both directions. The purpose of a double-ended ferry is that there are no turning maneuvers in or in front of the harbors, which saves time and fuel on the usually short ferry routes. In addition, the docking and casting off maneuvers as well as loading with motor vehicles are thereby significantly simplified.

Double-ended ferries are mainly used on rivers and lakes, for example the Weser ferry Bremerhaven and the car ferry Konstanz – Meersburg , but also in coastal waters, for example to cross from Norddeich to Norderney . There are also some double-ended ferries across the open sea such as the ferries on the Vogelfluglinie or the ferries on the Gozo Channel Line in Malta.

Ferries with free use

In Europe since the Middle Ages, the ferry justice was a right passed on by the nobility or the church to collect fees for the ferry service. However, there are also ferries that are free to use. Mostly they are river or canal ferries. These ferries include:


The German ferry route , which leads from Bremervörde to Kiel , connects ferries of almost all kinds. The 250 km long holiday route was opened in May 2004.

In Portugal, the ferries between Lisbon and the south bank of the Tejo after the eponymous city ​​of Cacilhas are known as Cacilheiros .

See also

Baltic ferry lines


Web links

Wiktionary: Ferry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Ferries  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Commons : Ferries  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Duden online: Ferry
  2. A ponte is a flat, wide ferry; see. Duden online: Ponte
  3. Brockhaus (1988)
  4. Fährbetriebsverordnung FäV 1995, § 5
  5. BinSchUO> Annex> Annex X> Part I> Chapter 1> § 1.01
  6. BinSchStrO> Part One> Chapter 1> § 1.01
  7. ^ Bernhard Riegler: Ferry justice with preferential consideration of the conditions of the Middle Rhine , Würzburg 1933
  8. longitudinal ferry Au - Grafenau. "Uniform" for the longitudinal ferry Donauschlinge Schlögen donauregion.at, WGD Donau Oberösterreich Tourismus GmbH, August 11, 2015, accessed on August 20, 2017.
  9. Franz Knapp, an artist from the Nibelungengau (and a real Lower Austrian) ( Memento of the original from August 14, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. zelking.com, Ludwig Pichler, © 2016, accessed on August 14, 2016.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.zelking.com
  10. Cowes Ferry (English)
  11. ^ Deutsche Fährstraße , accessed on May 30, 2011
  12. Image: Inaugural trip of the electric ferry in 1908 ( Memento of the original from January 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Not available on August 20, 2017. - Brueckenhofmuseum Königswinter-Oberdollendorf .  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.brueckenhofmuseum.de
  13. Peter Bläser: A consideration of the history of the ferry system between Bad Godesberg and Niederdollendorf Bad Godesberg 1992, p. 35 ff., Docplayer.org, accessed February 1, 2020.
  14. Florian Martini: Floating Stromer . In: Hansa , issue 12/2015, p. 47
  15. Archived copy ( memento of the original dated November 11, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / visedo.com
  16. ^ Sam Morgan: Denmark: World's largest electric ferry goes into operation . In: euractiv.de , August 20, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  17. Peter Pospiech: Ærø windmills electrify E-Ferry Ellen , Association of European Maritime Journalists, October 3, 2019. Accessed May 28, 2020.
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