top of page

Towards Green Transition - Infuture Final Conference Part 1

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 – “Towards Green Transition”


Tarja Javanainen, the Infuture Project Manager, Merikotka Research Centre opened the conference by welcoming all participants at present and online to the conference, and by thanking the partners: South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, XAMK, Aalto University, Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping, Russia, ILOT, St. Petersburg, Arctia SeaHow and Association of Finnish Waterways for the excellent co-operation during the 3-years development project.

Ville Henttu, Director of Research from the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences, XAMK introduced the theme and the guest speakers of the first session of the conference as a Moderator.

The topic of Mr Eero Hokkanen, the Ministerial Adviser from the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Finland was “Reducing GHG Emissions from Inland Waterway Transport”. The geographical and logistical significance as well as the industry’s competitiveness is very different in different in the EU Member States and the regional and local circumstances need to be considered when evaluating development needs.

According to the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin's Government, Finland will achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. The targets for reducing emissions from transport must be in line with this goal.

International maritime traffic to and from Finland is mainly short-sea shipping between Finland and other European states. Over 70% of imports by sea come from the Baltic Sea region and over 90% from Europe in general.

The National Transport System Plan 2021-2032 underlines the demand for shifting cargo from roads and railroads to waterways, which pushes us to act. The winter navigation is challenging, and the use of alternative fuels in the future is a necessity. These features are critical when designing new ships.

The ships should be ice-strengthened with fuel flexibility, and not to forget the safety.

It is important that the inland waterway transport regulation in Finland remains compatible with maritime transport regulation. There are special features, which needs to be taken into account; the Finnish coast and archipelago, seasonal nature of inland waterway transport in Finland, we don´t share inland waterways with other EU Member States.

As national measures in supporting the use and development of inland waterways in Finland he mentioned the launch of the development of the Saimaa Canal as outlined in the budget proposal for 2021 in order to promote cost-effective and environmentally friendly transport in Eastern Finland; and investigation of the possibility of a modal shift from road to inland waterways transport as part of research in reducing emissions from logistics.

Co-operation between regions, operators, shippers, shipowners and other players is needed in order to meet all requirements and emission reduction targets.

Marta Wolska, the Policy Officer of DG MOVE Unit D.3, Ports and Inland Navigation of the European Commission spoke about the “EU IWT Policies and the NAIADES III Action Plan 2021-2027”.

There are 41 000 km of inland waterways flowing through 25 EU member states, 44,000 people work on inland vessels (60% goods, 40% passengers) and 75% of inland waterway navigation takes place across borders.

According to the European Green Deal a decisive action is to shift a substantial part of the freight transported by road (currently accounting for 75% of inland freight) to inland navigation and rail. According to the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy the volumes of inland waterway transport and short-sea shipping are to be increased by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2050.

The aims to reducing the emissions are ambitious, and we need really huge measures and co-operation of all parties to meet them.

NAIADES III Action Plan 2021-2027 has two core objectives 1) shifting more freight transport to inland waterways and 2) forming an irreversible path towards zero emission inland vessels. These measures include also further digitalization, supporting the current and future workforce, timing of the action plan aligned to the new multi-annual financial framework

To shift more freight transport to inland waterways we need pay attention to develop fit-for-future infrastructure for optimized navigation, to organize seamless integration into multimodal mobility and logistics systems, to boost the uptake of more sustainable transport modes and to keep-up well-functioning inland waterways internal market. Steps towards zero emissions concern also greening inland waterways infrastructure and ports and having a zero-emissions fleet in the future.

There are a variety of EU funding instruments through which financing can be received into projects aiming towards green transition: CEF II, Horizon Europe, the LIFE Programme, European Regional Development Fund / Cohesion Fund, Recover and Resilience Fund (RRF) and Invest EU (incl. the Sustainable Infrastructure Window).

Frames Enabling Green Transition, was the theme of Benjamin Boyer, the Civil Engineer and Laure Roux, the Administrator, Economic Affairs of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, CCNR.

CCNR is the oldest international organisation in activity (200 years) which is based on Mannheim Convention (150 years) with 5 member states, 11 observer states and various observing international organisations. The main task is to guarantee freedom of navigation and promotion of navigation on the Rhine

CCNR was tasked by the Ministers in charge of transport of the CCNR Member States to develop a roadmap in order to reduce greenhouse gas / air pollutant emissions by 35% compared with 2015 by 2035 and furthermore, largely eliminate greenhouse gases and other pollutants by 2050. CCNR intends to adopt this roadmap in December 2021. The roadmap consists of Initial situation, Definitions, Transition Pathways and Implementation Plan.

Several fuel technologies and their emission reduction potential have been analyzed and transition pathways per fleet family: push boats, tank, bulk and container vessels and passenger vessels.

There are many technological solutions available but with different levels of maturity. There aren´t “one-size-fits-all” solution for suitability of technologies depends on vessel sailing profile. There are also many uncertainties as to technology development: regular monitoring to update investment priorities, and therefore pilot projects are needed to address such uncertainties.

There is a considerable financial gap to realize the energy transition towards a zero-emission of IWT. Sector cannot finance the energy transition by own means for high costs and lack of investment capacity. There are no incentives for vessel owners to invest in “greening”, nor return on investment.

Tomi Solakivi, Assistant Professor on Maritime Business & Policy at the Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Finland made a presentation on

The Role of Inland Waterways in Sustainable Transport Networks.

In the analyses comparing emissions of IWT against other modes of transport the result was that shipping is the greenest transport mode with lowest energy consumption and CO2 emission per ton-mile in longer distances. Where on shorter distances: 800 on rails and 1500 km on roads, are more competitive and cost efficiency than waterways. The emissions of IWT depend on cargo type. Bulk and push boat are on the same level with average emissions of rail transport.

There are large differences between countries depending on CO2 intensity of electricity production. Unlike sea transport, inland waterway transport is close to shore, with lower speed and therefore also lower energy consumption. In IWW transport it is more potential to use for example electricity as a power source.

It is clear that environmental goals of transport will increase the competitiveness of IWT, but on the other hand geographical and supply chain challenges limit the potential.

There already are many alternative fuels available. We need to pay attention to the infrastructure supporting the distribution of alternative fuels, and carefully think about the investments. What is the most effective mode of transportation when aiming towards greener future, and to support the use of waterways where it is reasonable.

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.


bottom of page