Traffic jam (waterways)

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A traffic jam (Greek: στάσις = stasis for standing, station) describes the disruption of a traffic or transport flow via a transport route , for example a canal . Possible faults are e.g. B. Bottlenecks or other traffic obstructions ; One speaks of congestion in general as soon as the flow is significantly obstructed or comes to a complete standstill. The properties of the transport route or channel such as capacity and traffic control on the one hand and the properties of the goods to be transported on the other hand are of great importance.

The transport is usually characterized by a continued occupation and simultaneous release of (channel) resources . This process is disturbed in a traffic jam. The consequence is a continued further assignment, but without the corresponding approval. The traffic jam is therefore a self-reinforcing process. B. makes its dangerousness on waterways .


A traffic jam can be intentional or unintentional. Examples of a deliberate damming are the damming of water at a barrage or a dam : mostly for generating electricity, occasionally also for irrigation.

In the majority of cases, the traffic jam is an unwanted phenomenon and can have the following causes:

  • Blockages or narrowing of the fairway
  • Traffic congestion
  • Traffic control measures.

Other bottlenecks are locks and ship lifts . Likewise, the crossing traffic of several types of traffic (river to rail / road) on moving bridges can cause ship traffic jams due to block handling .


A distinction is made between water congestion and ship congestion. A water stagnation can, as described above, be deliberate or caused negligently by floating debris or environmental pollution.

A ship traffic jam always depends on the behavior of the road users and the use of the ships by the shipping companies . Even accidents contribute to the disturbance in the flow of traffic of ships. Rivers are usually not completely barrier-free, so ships have to be locked. Here, due to the limited reception capacity in the lock, backwater from waiting ships occurs, which also has a detrimental effect on the flow of traffic. A ship traffic jam occurs very rarely because of the large traffic area available, and there is also an effective traffic control system on the inland waterways that draws the skipper's attention to obstructions at an early stage.

Intervention options

Ways to prevent traffic jams on waterways are: