Inland navigation has a lot of potential in the Baltic Sea Region, even though the geographical and administrative conditions for inland navigation differ from country to country.
This was highlighted by the panel that debated the future of inland navigation in Sweden as part of the seventh Strategy Forum for the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). The Strategy Forum was organised in Stockholm and gathered together over 1,200 participants to discuss future challenges and opportunities in the Baltic Sea Region.
The panel was organised by Interreg Baltic Sea Region project EMMA that aims to enhance inland navigation in the Baltic Sea Region. The panellists stressed that inland water transport is cost-efficient, safe and environmentally friendly compared to truck and train transport.
“Less than one third of energy is needed when carrying goods by vessel. It is a public task to support inland navigation”, emphasised Birgitta Schäfer from the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.
While road and rail infrastructure is in some parts of the Baltic Sea Region overloaded, moving cargo from road to waterways reduces traffic jams and accidents.
“There is definitely potential for inland navigation in Sweden,” confirmed Johan Lantz, CEO of Avatar Logistics.
The panellists agreed that innovative solutions and right political framework are needed to make inland navigation an integral part of multi-modal transport chains. Germany is the forerunner here, and River Rhine is even called the motorway of inland navigation. In Sweden the main challenges include icing and pilot regulations as well as costs of pilotage.
“Development takes time and therefore each step should be taken into the right direction. Organising transhipment is one of the issues that should be paid attention to. There are huge volumes that might be transported by inland barges and with all available information, means and technology such as river information systems we should overcome the problems,” advised Hans van der Werf, former General Secretary of the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine.
Panellists admitted that there are lessons to be learned from other Baltic Sea Region countries in how to improve the administrative layout and framework.
“In Sweden there is a growing interest in inland navigation as well as good political engagement. Inland water transport should be competitive, and it can make a difference if we handle obstacles and recognise the Swedish prerequisites. We can learn from EMMA pilot projects that are going on,” said Stefan Engdahl, Head of Planning at the Swedish Transport Administration.
21 EMMA partners from Sweden, Germany, Finland, Lithuania and Poland develop efficient transport solutions together in order to assure cross-region applicability and benefits.
“There is clearly a need for cooperation and harmonisation that EMMA project can support,” concluded Gunnar Platz, CEO of PLANCO Consulting and Project Manager of EMMA.