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Towards Green Transition - Infuture Final Conference Part "

The Final Conference of the INFUTURE project, “Future potential of Inland Waterways” took place November 30 – December 1, 2021 in Kotka, Finland. This hybrid conference gathered almost 100 IWW specialists and stakeholders to discuss on “Waterways - A Step Towards a Green Transition”.

The focus of the conference was on presenting the research results of the Infuture project and to learn from other IWW specialists and projects through four different themes.

The first theme, Towards green transition, focused on the EU's Green Deal and Fit for 55 Programs, as well as on national emission reduction targets for inland waterway transportation; the second theme highlighted the opportunities and potential of inland waterway transport today; the third theme aimed to present best practices and smart solutions for the development of inland waterway infrastructure and port operations, and the last, fourth session brought us visions for the future of inland waterways as a sustainable mode of freight transport.

Here a short summary of the first session of the INFUTURE Project Final Conference – Potential and Opportunities of IWW today


Pentti Kujala, Professor, Aalto University was the Moderator of the Second Session of the Conference. He introduced the theme and the guest speakers.

An international team of experts from Russia and Finland presented the study conducted in the frames of the Infuture project “INFUTURE Project Surveys on Cargo Potential”: Anatoly Burkov, Associated Professor of Management of Waterway Transport Department, Project Manager, "INFUTURE" Project, CBC Programme from the Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping, Andrey Yushchenko, Director from the Marine Cargo Bureau, Russia and Anna Kiviniitty, RDI Specialist, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, XAMK, Finland.

In 2020 about 108 million tons of cargo was transported via Russian inland waterways, and about 8 million passengers. The Russian inland waterways system is 101,5 thousand km long, of which 50,2 thousand km is with guaranteed dimensions. There are 130 ports along the waterway system, and annually around 13 000 cargo and passenger vessels sailing on inland waterways. Even though the numbers are quite high the share of inland waterway transport in Russia in on 1%.

There are state programmes on modernization of the inland waterways system and infrastructure; hydraulic structures, navigable waterways, ports/berths and fairways to them, navigational signs and equipment. The aim is to eliminate the bottlenecks hindering the development and increase of inland waterway transport in Russia, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with 60% compared to 1990, to create conditions for year-round navigation in the southern regions of the country along the Caspian Azov direction by 2030, to ensure the standard maintenance of inland waterways and to apply incentives for the renewal of the cargo amongst others.

The comprehensive analysis of the overall structure of cargo transportation between Russia and Finland for 2014- 2019 consists of the composition and structure of imports and exports between Russia and Finland; identification of groups of products with high demand that are promising for switching to water transport; identification of the most attractive Federal districts of the Russian Federation and subjects of the Russian Federation in terms of cargo turnover with Finland.

One finding of the analysis was that a gradual increase in cargo transportation volumes can be noticed, but the level of 2014 has not been reached.

The share of exports in the structure of cargo transportation by inland water transport between Russia and Finland reaches 98%. The main type of cargo that is exported from Russia to Finland is raw materials – round wood and balances, while round wood is the predominant cargo in transportation, the share of which reaches more than 90%.

The potential growth in using the inland waterway transport between Russia and Finland was identified for some groups of products; like timber, wood and paper that are typically transported by road and rail. At the same time, manufacturers of these products are conveniently located on waterways, which allows to take measures for shifting goods from road and rail to waterway transport.

The planned measures of extending the navigation period by creating a self-propelled ice bow, changing the length of the lock chambers and increasing the water in the channel at Saimaa will increase the tonnage of ships and reduce the cost of shipping by waterways.

In the frames of the conducted analysis potential and actual transport companies, ship owners and logistic companies were interviewed, and two different questionnaires were accomplished regarding container transport, basic routes, potential cargo flows, shipbuilding recommendations, hub port main features and services and strategic vision for 2-3 years (2019-2020). Furthermore, in a purpose of development of education on inland waterways a training of inland waterway skills through simulations was organized including working with of fairway data and smart device information.

The growth potential of inland waterway transport is clear. Both Russia and Finland are investing in improving the IWW. There is a necessity to shift cargo from road to rails and waterways to meet the EU environmental objectives. There are new cargo ships with ice class and higher cargo capacity under planning, and the connection of seaports to inland waterway networks are developed.

“Essential Role of Maritime Transportation in Green Transition” was the topic of Claudia Beumer, who is the Global Account Manager at the VT Group Netherlands. VT is a reliable, self-sufficient tanker shipping company, which operations worldwide, both in inland navigation and maritime shipping. They offer innovative logistics solutions, safe and efficient service-oriented activities with attention to sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

Currently the bunkering industry is under pressure what comes to pricing and developing and building the distribution infrastructure. There is continuous discussion on future fuels between shipowners and fuel producers. What is the future fuel or fuel mix, for not one fits all vessels? The logistics sector, bunker operators / barge operators should be involved in the discussion what comes to efficient planning and use of future fuels in inland waterways. They have a track record in transport of fuels and chemicals, which is a critical element of the supply chain. The deadline is getting closer and therefore a proper discussion with all parties including also the industry and efficient planning in logistics are necessary.

Jarkko Toivola, the Chief Maritime Specialist, Head of Maritime Unit and Director Waterways at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, Finland talked about Inland Waterways and Winter Navigation.

Winter navigation is challenging, and the ice conditions vary annually. The Icebreaking season of Lake Saimaa winter was 10.12.2020 - 5.2.2021 and 22.3.2021 - 1.5.2021. During that time 170 Assisted voyages and 6 Towed voyages was made with a total of 9306 Assist mileage.

At Saimaa we have two icebreaking tugs with ”Saimax” beam detachable bow: Calypso/Saimaa and Protector. The self-propelled detachable icebreaking bow Saimaa was commissioned in 12/2020 at the Turku Repair Yard Ltd. Saimaa is equipped with two shaft lines with propulsion power of 600 kW per shaft. The full-scale ice trials were carried out late March 2021 and the results were: ~2.9kn 70cm level ice; ~8.2kn 40cm level ice and furthermore, it is able to proceed astern in ~46 cm level ice. The self-propelled icebreaking bow is to ensure the navigation in ice conditions as long as possible at Saimaa.

Although winters in general will become shorter due to climate change, the independent ice going capacity of merchant vessels will deteriorate due to emission control regulation. So, icebreaking assistance is needed and will be needed in the Northern water areas. Therefore, there is a need to modernize the Saimaa Lake area fleet and ferries.

Pekka Koskinen´s, Vice Chairman, Association of Finnish Waterways was

INFUTURE Project Survey: Challenges for Increasing the IWW Cargo Traffic between Russian and Finnish Inland Waterways Areas.

He presented shortly the history of the Saimaa Canal. The history is very fascinating as in September 21st, 1844 Tsar Nikolai I ordered the Senate to start building the Saimaa Canal and the constructions were started in May 1855 and the Canal was opened 7th of September in 1856. At the Finnish side the construction work was started in Varkaus, Finland with the Taipale Canal lock already in March 1835.

The survey conducted shows that there is not much competition between shipping companies in Russian IWW areas. The import of round wood from Russian IWW areas to Finnish forest industries in Lake Saimaa area has a big strategic role. The loading ports are “behind St. Petersburg”. Round wood is also imported by trucks and rail, which means there is a good potential to increase transport volumes via inland waterways.

In Finland the bigger companies have knowhow for making IWW business with Russian companies. There are annually several smaller commodity groups, which are under investigation, and these could be turn into new and potential IWW business between Russian and Finnish companies. Environmental values will lead more volumes to IWW, if the logistics cost level will be acceptable.

Co-operation between authorities, persons who manage the river traffic and the IWW ports, the shipowners and cargo owners is needed. Marketing campaign for Finnish companies located in the Lake Saimaa area and Russian companies located in the IWW area is recommendable. Maybe to form a Russian Finnish “authority/business forum” to discuss the future IWW vessels and the transportation, keeping future regulations in mind.

Some issues, which could be taken into this forum to discuss and to work out together:

  • The fleet in Russian and Finland is old. New IMO regulations will change the regulatory role of the Russian vessels as old vessels will not be approved by IMO for future traffic in European IWW.

  • Finnish vessels are not feasible for Russian IWW fairways. They are too high. Some new Saimax-size vessel are under construction in Russian IWW shipyards, but mostly the newbuilds are bigger than Saimax- size. The latest new order for Saimax -size vessels in Russia was 12 years ago.

  • Current Finnish regulations do not allow liquid bulk transports in the Canal and in the lake area, and Russian regulations change very quickly, which causes problems for the industries.

  • High-cost level makes it impossible for non-Russian vessels to sail in Russian IWW areas, and Russian flag does not allow other flags in Russian IWW areas.

  • According to the Finnish industry the sailing season is too short. The sailing season could be 2 months longer, depending on the winter. The role of icebreakers in IWW is critical also in the future.

  • Prolonging the Saimaa Canal lock chambers and effective use of this fairway in the future.

Heli Koukkula-Teixeira, Executive Director, Association of Finnish Waterways closed the first day of the conference by thanking the moderators and all guest speakers.

Towards green transition is inevitable and the waterways offers one solution to meet the environmental goals, which are ambitious. We heard about the possibilities of utilizing the waterways and about the technical solutions, alternative fuels and infrastructure development, which are supporting the use of IWW system. Efficient planning is necessary and the discussion between different parties, like today, to find the right solutions for building right infrastructure paying attention to geographical and logistical significances, to

support shipowners, and to make wise decisions on investments.

We need to look the whole logistics chain and not to forget the waterways when planning regional and international supply chains. Waterways do not wear out!

Summary by Heli Koukkula-Teixeira, Executive Director of the Association of Finnish Waterways

The INFUTURE project has taken a wide-ranging approach to finding solutions for sustainable and cost-effective inland waterway traffic between Finland and Russia.


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