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Strengthening inland shipping in the Baltic

(Posted on 09/11/18)

A vision for inland waterway transport (IWT) in the Baltic Sea Region as well as means to strengthen inland shipping were highlighted in Brussels this week, when about 90 participants from around the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) gathered to discuss the future of inland waterway transport to the final conference of project EMMA. The three-year-long project has brought inland shipping and inland waterways such as Elbe, Oder or Vistula higher on the political agenda.

Project EMMA, an Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme project aimed at enhancing inland navigation in the Baltic Sea Region, organized its final conference “Visions and Opportunities for the Transport Network – Inland Navigation and River-Sea Shipping in the Baltic Sea Region” in Brussels jointly with the Chambers’ Union Elbe/Oder.

At the conference, a vision for IWT in the Baltic Sea Region was presented. According to the vision, inland waterway transport is a green and smart transport mode, which is well integrated in multimodal supply chains with a remarkable share of the modal split. Inland waterway transport represents currently 6 % of the total transport volume in the European Union, consisting mostly of the transport along the Rhein and the Danube. However, during the three years, project EMMA has promoted sustainable inland shipping across the Baltic Sea Region successfully, highlighting the potential of many BSR countries to contribute to a more sustainable transport system by enhancing inland navigation and increasing its modal share in the transport system. The project EMMA was approved as a flagship project in the Policy Area Transport of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, reflecting the importance of developing inland navigation in the Baltic Sea Region.

“A lot of countries that want to push this transport mode further take this momentum. Project EMMA draws attention to these countries because there is potential which needs to be lifted by closer co-operation of all stakeholders involved”, said Stefan Breitenbach from the Port of Hamburg Marketing.
According to the vision, IWT is well-considered in strategic transport network planning and legislation. The expert panels discussed the importance of extending the TEN-T inland waterway network and including more waterways in core network corridors. Integration of waterways into the TEN-T network advances investments on them, since a lot of financing is directed to core network corridors. National regulatory frameworks are clearly a challenge and there is a need for harmonised national rules and regulations. For instance, in Sweden inland navigation is heavily affected by pilot and fairway dues that decrease its competitiveness. Johan Lantz, CEO of Avatar Logistics, called for a same playground for the whole Europe and stressed that the price of pilotage is currently a deal-breaker in Sweden when it comes to inland navigation.

The vision stated that a clear Intelligent Transport Systems’ (ITS) strategy enables smart shipping solutions. Arne Gehlhaar from the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics reminded that digitalization is needed to reach the competitiveness of inland navigation. River Information Services (RIS) are services designed to enhance safety and efficiency of inland waterway transport by optimizing traffic and transport processes. In Germany, EMMA pilot focused on improving transport management with the development of a digital map that combines RIS data with traffic flow relevant information, helping to achieve more efficient IWT in the Baltic Sea Region.

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