Russia’s inland waterway network is significant, and its south-eastern part in particular is important to Finland. 120 million tons of cargo passes through the Russian inland waterway system annually, and there are 131 inland ports in the inland waterway network. For comparison, the total volume of cargo in Finland is about 100 million tons.
Within the framework of the INFUTURE project, Admiral Makarov State Univeristy of Maritime and Inland Shipping has carried out a study on inland waterway traffic and freight flows between Russia and Finland, and based on these analyses performed, the potential has been identified.
Inland Waterway Fleet
The current fleet operating on inland waterways is very old and there is a need for new vessels. The INFUTURE project has also concentrated on this issue and the new vessel types for new Saimaa are under planning.
The demand is still high for Volgo-DonMax vessels (max length 141,0 m; max width 16,98 m). In Russia the Project of Marine Engineering Bureau is to build dry cargo river-sea going vessels. Total order book is 60 vessels, of which 27 has already been delivered and 22 is under construction and with option of 11 more vessels. Most of the delivered once are modern river-sea going vessels and there are also two tug barges under constructions.
Unfortunately, these vessels are too big to navigate via Saimaa canal even after the extension of Saimaa Canal lock chambers.
Development of the Inland Waterway System
An important issue is also the investments of the Finnish government about 100 MEUR in the extension of the lock chambers of the Saimaa canal. This will allow larger vessels to pass through the Saimaa canal and with bigger cargo volumes.
In Russia there is also a need to develop the of inland waterway system. Today the guaranteed depth is 3,6 m in the European side of the Russian Federation, but there are two parts where the depth is even lower than that 3,6 m. The Russian government is investing into inland waterway system to grant the depth of 3,6 m everywhere. There is a need to shift cargo from roads and railroads into inland waterways.
The Russian Federation Strategy for inland development is to modernise and expand the main waterway infrastructure by 2024:
increase of the capacity of domestic seaports by a third
increase of the throughput of inland waterways
the development of the Northern Sea Route
the development of professional education and training
New cargo flows and routes for Saimaa is with high importance for Russia, including action for shifting cargos from roads and railroads into river-sea going vessels. Inland ports development in both countries and their wider connection into trade will foster local development of many aspects, industrial and social etc. Saimaa infrastructural development shall stimulate the replacement of old fleet with new vessels.
The limitations of the navigation period on Saimaa and on the Volgo-Balt is also hindering the smooth waterway operations between Finland and Russia.
Harmonisation of Rules and Procedures
There are differences in the legislation of Finland (EU) and Russia on inland water transport and on customs and border procedures which would require some harmonisation in order to develop the passage efficiency via Saimaa canal. According to the plans of the Russian Federation, the maritime checkpoint will be located exactly in the middle of the canal, and if we do not start a dialogue on the optimisation of customs and border control procedures in advance, there may be problems for shipping with the start of its operation under the existing rules.
Cargo Volumes via Volgo-Balt and White sea-Onega and Saimaa
Cargo to and from Saimaa is almost 1 million tons/year and with domestic transported cargo all together around 2 million tons/year. Where at Volgo-Balt almost 17 million tons of cargo is transported annually. Nowadays the main cargo from Russia to Saimaa is timber: raw wood and wood chips. Fertilisers and chemicals as well as iron scrap, metal/iron pigs and gravel could be potential cargo for this inland route.
The most important regions for wood producers are Karelia, Vologda region and Leningrad region. Neva Hagen shipping company is the Russian company operating with Saimaa cargo for several years.
Pilot Voyage from Saimaa to Cherepovets
In the frames of INFUTURE project we plan to carry a pilot voyage from Saimaa to Cherepovets with the company Meriaura. For Finnish partners the idea behind this is to be able to estimate how it is to navigate with their own fleet in the Russian inland waterways. At the moment we are looking for a suitable vessel, and the VolgoBalt Administration has promised to help in defining the right size of the vessel for the pilot.
UPM is willing to participate in the INFUTURE pilot project as a cargo provider. It would be a really good addition for the company, if vessels under Finnish flag could enter the Russian inland waterways. Currently, wood is imported using Russian tonnage, and there is a need for more.
Request for Cargo Integrator
Within the framework of the INFUTURE project, a customer survey of Saimaa region stakeholders was conducted. In these discussions the environmental issues came up, and also the role of SMEs in shared cargo transport was underlined. The inland waterways could be also used in some project transports. Reliable cargo integrators with experience in a wide range of cargo and cargo groups in Lake Saimaa region are needed and they could develop new business models to serve for example SME.
Currently, there is no container traffic in Saimaa, and very little in Russian rivers. European ports compete for the efficiency of transport chains and how to ensure logistics and make the whole chain competitive. Saimaa’s new dimensions and new vessels would also enable container transport. This possibility should be studied more and there already is a particular interest in special containers.
A cost-effective, safe and fast transportation route interests the stakeholders.
XAMK is preparing an analytical simulation model that can be used for simulating navigation in the Saimaa on larger ships in different conditions. At the same time, the utilisation of smart devices in navigation can be simulated. Calculations can be made of how long the journey would take by visualising different situations and repeating them. By analysing the results, new business can be developed.
Within the framework of the project, there has also been discussion on “transshipment hub” to serve the waterway traffic between Finland and Russia. The digital services play a key role here. Possibility to assemble complete cargos, book ships and cargo space, real-time information on fairways and ports, descriptions of transport chains and alternative routes – clear offers on competitiveness of waterways.
New Business Models
New business models and a new attitude towards inland waterway transport are needed. Could there be some kind of incentives to support the companies in shifting their cargo into inland waterways and to develop the whole supply chain environmentally friendly.
Lappeenranta, the port of Mustola, is the largest port in the Saimaa region, and has over the years served as a transit port. In addition to the Mustola logistics center, Lappeenranta has a passenger port and a marina, as well as an airport. Mustola has 7 piers and the location is ideal; 10 km from the center and 15 km from the border. Mustola is also significant as a storage area. The Saimaa canal is next door and also has good rail and road connections.
How to further develop Lappeenranta’s Mustola multimodal logistics center and specifically to support better utilisation of water transport? How to get industry and trade involved? How to manage the development of the entire transport chain and new service concepts, as well as marketing cooperation and information systems. Would “Port of Saimaa” be the answer to this?
The idea of “Port of Saimaa” is to form a network of active cargo ports in the Saimaa region; Lappeenranta, Joensuu, Kuopio, Savonlinna, Imatra and Varkaus. The “Port of Saimaa” would be presented to the clients and in the market as one big cargo port.
When there is a commercial interest, it is possible to solve most of the organisational and legal problems, including attracting new cargo and issues on shifting cargo from road and rails into waterways.
Continues dialogue and collaborative meetings as such round tables are needed between the stakeholders and administrative authorities.
We thank the Round Table Speakers:
Pekka Koskinen, Partner, Brave Logistics Oy
Tatiana A. Pantina, Admiral Makarov State University of Maritime and Inland Shipping
Anatoly Burkov, Admiral Makarov State University for Maritime and Inland Shipping
Esa Korhonen, UPM Metsä
Toomas Lybeck, South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences
Hannu Lappalainen, Lappeenrannan Satama
Maksim A. Nevezhin, Head of FGU Saimaa Canal
Andrei L. Yushchenko, Marine Freight Bureau
Anton A. Svechkarev, Neva-Hagen
Dmitry S. Neslukhov, Neva-Hagen
Source: Association of Finnish Waterways