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INFUTURE: Future Inland Waterway Vessels

INFUTURE is a 3-year project funded by the CBC 2014-2020 program for Southeast Finland and Russia. The main idea of the Work Package 3 of the INFUTURE project is to develop the next generation inland waterway cargo vessel concept for Saimaa and Volgo-Balt waterways based on the results received within the Work Package 1 regarding the transported cargo flows today and in the future.

There is a great need for the next generation fleet at the Saimaa and Volgo-Balt regions, and for this new vessel concepts have been designed.

The Next Generation IWW Vessel Concepts The target area of the INFUTURE project is Saimaa region in Finland and the Volgo-Balt area on the Russian side. The aim is to boost the cargo transportation in this area. Today the main cargo transported up the canal in this area includes timber, crude minerals/ cement and down the canal wood products, fertilisers and crude minerals/ cement. Most of them are bulk cargo, which is the main cargo type for the new vessels designs.

There is a need for new vessels for the current fleet is quite old; the foreign vessels operating in the area are approximately over 20 years and the Finnish vessels over 30 years. There is also a plan of renovating the Saimaa locks and to lengthen the lock chambers by 11 meters, which enables bigger vessels to enter the Saimaa waters. Furthermore, we need to pay attention to environmental requirements and aim for greener shipping by using alternative cleaner flues.

Almost all vessels designed within INFUTURE project are the multipurpose vessels, with excellent flexibility, suitable for bulk cargo, project cargo and even for containers. The vessel should be ice strengthened for winter navigation.

Two Vessel Concepts by Aalto and Aker Arctic

Aalto University has developed two detailed vessel concepts together with Aker Arctic Technologies.

The first one is a winter assisted version: regular vessel with EEDI open water bow and conventional stern with ice class IA and therefore ice breaker assistance is needed.

The second one is a winter independent version: double acting with EEDI open water bow and icebreaking stern with ice class IA super, which is the highest ice class in Finland and Sweden.

The dimensions of both vessels are defined according to the new Saimaa Canal dimensions with prolonged lock chambers. Three different drafts have been considered according to the Baltic Sea, Saimaa and Volgo-Balt waterways. The deadweight of the vessel has also been calculated for these three different regions.

The open water speed is 11,5 knots for both concepts, for the vessels will be navigating mostly in inland waterways. The winter assisted vessel has the engine power of approximately 1500 kW and fuel consumptions 6,5 t/day with fixed pitch propeller. The winter independent vessel has the engine power of approximately 1700 kW and fuel consumptions 7,5 t/day with azimuth thruster. This vessel's light weight is a bit higher due to the higher requirements on local structure and extra machinery weight, which means that the cargo capacity is a bit less. This vessel can run through ice of 0,6 m with a speed of 2 knots. The cost of the winter independent vessel is about 2 MEUR higher that the winter assisted vessel.

Flexible Cargo Vessel

In the design attention was paid to maximise the flexibility for transporting different kind of cargo. The vessel has lift away hatch covers, movable tween decks and bulkheads, possible gantry crane for decks and bulkheads movements. The general arrangements are almost the same in both vessel designs. The differences are mainly in the stern and the propeller system.

The vessel concepts have been evaluated at the Aalto University by using a simulator with a lot of theoretical work behind. The next step is to evaluate also the vessel performance in open water and going straight ahead and turning in the ice. The model is ready for testing and the testing will be carried out in the beginning of 2021 at the Aalto University ice tank laboratory.

Demand for New Fleet is Obvious

The drivers for new vessels when thinking about somehow limited water areas are low investment costs, low OPEX compared to cargo capacity, maximum cargo capacity and low fuel consumption yet with efficient propeller design and low operating speed.

If it will be possible to operate a-year-around at the Saimaa lake in the future, there would be a great potential for new business and the independent vessels would be the one for this area. When breaking the ice in stern, it is effective and the fuel consumption is relatively low.

Today a-year-around navigation is possible only at the Saimaa lake area, and sometimes the waiting times of Icebreakers can be quite long because of the long distances.

The environmental aspects have become more and more important in shipping. New rules and restrictions are coming into force. The shipping in general allows the lowest emission per transported ton of cargo. New sources of power are studied and in the Saimaa area the alternative fuels, biofuels and hybrid-batteries could be in question. LNG might not be feasible, for it requires a lot of space and increases lightweight of the vessel - meaning less cargo capacity.

Optimal IWW Vessel for Timber and Container Transportation by Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping and Marine Engineering Bureau

The idea of this project is to minimise the cost of the vessel without losing its motion kinematic parameters (ship speed). The cost of the building and using of the vessel depends on the block coefficient, which varies for different vessels.

The modelling and calculations have been conducted for vessels carrying timber or containers.

The body line for the timber carrier would be tunnel type and for container a sled type. It is also important to choose the right propellor complex in order to grant the good maneuverability and safety. The variants in this modelling were: one vessel with two propellers with fixed speed and with a rudder behind propeller, and another vessel – with thrusters.

This designed vessel is very different from the existing once, and therefore in order to conduct the calculations a lot of information of the resistance of vessels with different hull forms were gathered.

The next step is to do experiments to obtain the vessel propulsion, maneuverability and seaworthiness. There is also a plan to form a mathematical model to demonstrate the vessel opportunity to navigate from Volgo-Balt to Saimaa and the instrument for calculation is ready.

The general vessel design for transporting timber would have a hull shape selected according to the possibility of using rudder behind propellers. An extensive experiment is to be carried out in the experimental laboratory of the Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping. For this model, the propellers have already been developed and tested in free water. In spring 2021 this model will be transported to Aalto University, where it will be tested in ice conditions.

A Container Ship Traffic Lappeenranta – Moscow by AMSUMIS

A project idea on "river-sea" container ship traffic between Lappeenranta and Moscow have been carefully studied. The main technical characteristics and limitations for a suitable vessel are the length and width of the lock chambers on the Saimaa Canal and the draft on some parts of the Russian inland waterways. The parameters of the maneuverability in open water and on ice have also been evaluated, as well as some calculation of the choice of the vessel's hull.

So far there are no container traffic in the Saimaa area or in the inland waterways of Russia. In the future it can be possible. The industry has shown their interest, for example, for bulk containers and liquid tank containers.

When designing and building “river-sea” going vessels, it is necessary to take into account not only the minimum draft of 3,7 m (the current limitation on the Russian IWW), but also the height of the surface gauge. There are restrictions on the height due to the bridges along the route. So for vessels carrying general cargo, containers or bulk cargo, it is expedient to provide a lifting and lowering superstructure option.

Neva-Hagen a Leading IWW Company in Russia

Neva-Hagen is the leader in transportation from Russia to the internal ports of Finland along the Saimaa Canal. Their vessels of ST type, despite their age, have good commercial indicators with a carrying capacity of 1450 t and draft only 2,62 m.

The “new”, after modernising the Saimaa canal, length of the vessels may limit the possibility of operating the new vessels in some Northern European ports, which accept existing vessels of the Neva-Hagen company. For example, the port of Wisbech in Wash Bay, the port of Boston, the port of Ipswich, England, the port of Perth, Scotland and a number of ports in France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and Poland.

A Universal Versatile Vessel for Inland Waterways by St. Peter's Terminal LLC

The project idea is to develop a new "river-sea" vessel type, which would be operating both on the Russian IWW and in the Caspian Sea with the entry possibility into the most European ports. This concept of twin-deck dry-cargo vessels is with a maximum length for bulk cargo and also equipped with cargo devices for loading and unloading wheeled vehicles by coasting (ro-ro). The company “Morskaya Tekhnika” has built a vessel according to this project concept, and the vessel was taken into use two months ago, m / v “Kamila” in Turkey. The next vessel is to be taken into operation this spring.

Icebreaking Capacity

It is important also to co-operate with the icebreaking authorities. Saimaa canal lock chamber will be prolonged, new icebreaking capacity will be provided in the area. The aim is to organise the icebreaking services to extend the navigation period as much as possible. It is not realistic to think about a-year-around traffic at the canal area, but the new vessel technologies are being studied. An excellent example of this, is the attachable icebreaking bow, which should be taking into use in the beginning of 2021 at the Saimaa area is one very promising solution.


The new vessel concepts and designs of the multipurpose vessels for inland navigation are very interesting and exciting. The shipping is facing the challenges of the environmental requirements. The old tonnage is not complying with the new requirements. Independent ice-going vessels with icebreaking capability are needed in operating at the Saimaa and Volgo-Balt waterways.

When designing future IWW or river-sea going vessels, it is better to lay in the greater versatility of the vessel in terms of cargo. Sometimes is not worth to choose a vessel according to the maximum size of modernised Saimaa Canal for in some cases this will narrow the possibilities of its use in connections to the European ports.

There is also a need to more carefully analyse the possibilities and prospective to increase the traffic and volumes between Finland and Russia, and at the same time pay attention to the constraints and challenges when designing new vessels.

At the end of the day, it is to ship owners and cargo owners to make the decision on investments on new versatile IWW vessels with modern technology and new power sources.

Speakers of the Round Table discussions

  • Pentti Kujala, Professori (Professor of Practice), Mechanical Engineering, Aalto University

  • Doctor Fang Li, Marine Technology, Aalto University, Finland

  • Jukka Salminen, Sales Manager, Aker Arctic Technology Inc, Finland

  • Marina P. Lebedeva, Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Seaworthiness of Vessels, Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia

  • Leonid I. Vishnevskii, Head Scientific Worker, Krylov State Research Centre, Russia

  • Jarkko Toivola, Captain, Director, Alfons Håkans Group, Finland

  • Tatiana A. Pantina, Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation, Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia

  • Anatoly V. Burkov, Associate Professor of the Department of Water Transport Management, INFUTURE project manager, Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia

  • Yury V. Yatsuk, Head of the Department of Shipbuilding, Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia

  • Alexey O. Lebedev, Senior Researcher, Department of Shipbuilding, Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia

  • Nikolay V. Avtutov, Chief Designer, LLC Marine Engineering Bureau, Russia

  • Anton A. Svechkarev, Commercial Director, Neva-Hagen LLC, Russia

  • Dmitry S. Neslukhov, Senior Fleet Manager, Neva-Hagen LLC, Russia

  • Stanislav Z. Lobodinsky, Development Director, St. Peter's Terminal LLC, Big Port St. Petersburg, Russia

  • Georgy V. Taritsa, Advisor to the General Director, PJSC Vyborg Shipyard, Russia

  • Maxim A. Nevezhin, Acting Head of Federal Administration of the Saimaa Canal, Russia

Summary of the INFUTURE Round Tables WP3.

The Finnish partners had their RT discussion 26.11.2020 and the Russia partners 1.12.2020.

We thank the Speakers of the Round Table sessions held in Finland and Russia for their input.

Summary of the Round Tables 3/3 by Heli Koukkula-Teixeira, Executive Director of the Association of Finnish Waterways.

Photos: INFUTURE project


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