The KvarkenMos conference, belonging to the Motorways of the Sea seminar series, began with a dinner hosted by Region Västerbotten in Umeå, Sweden, on Wednesday evening, April 20th 2016. The conference continued on the following day, focusing on northern transport routes and maritime transport strategies for remote and peripheral regions. The two-day seminar was organized by the E12 Atlantica Transport project (supported by the Interreg Botnia-Atlantica programme) in cooperation with the Kvarken Council, the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia (Finland), Region Västerbotten (Sweden) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport.
The event attracted transport and communications experts, regional and national decision-makers, company representatives, and the coordinators of the TEN-T/Motorways of the Sea (MoS) programme, Mr. Brian Simpson and Mr. José Anselmo, to Umeå on Thursday. Anselmo’s successor, Mr. Wojciech Sopinski, also paid his first visit to Umeå and Vaasa.
Mr. Brian Simpson, Coordinator of the TEN-T/Motorways of the Sea (MoS) programme preparing for his presentation and Ms. Anna Måtts, Project Manager E12 Atlantica Transport helping Mr. Simpson.
The Chairman of the Executive Board of the Municipality of Umeå, Mr. Hans Lindberg, welcomed the participants to a rapidly growing and developing Umeå and enlightened them of the concrete collaboration between the ports of Umeå and Vaasa. Mr. Per Olov Lingwall, the National Coordinator of the Swedish CEF Transport Secretariat (part of the Swedish Transport Administration), reviewed in his opening speech the CEF and TEN-T financing opportunities from Sweden’s national perspective.
Simpson, the Coordinator of the MoS programme, has already previously acquainted himself with the Midway Alignment project and its operators, and he considers the cooperation between the two cities – located in different countries and separated by the sea – as an innovative example of cross-border collaboration. He asked for feedback from the conference participants regarding the MoS programme, because he is currently drafting a plan of implementation for its next programme period.
The President of Region Västerbotten, Mr. Erik Bergkvist, reminded the participants that the Kvarken has always been a place of cross-border cooperation. The importance of regular ferry traffic is considerable for Umeå and Vaasa’s economic life, administration and education. Moreover, a functional transport connection is needed to maintain regional cooperation between Norway, Sweden and Finland.
Passage to the Northern Sea Route
Mr. Paul Holthus, the CEO of World Ocean Council, talked on the first seminar day of the future prospects of the North-East Passage. Global warming and Russia’s plans to bring sturdier icebreaking vessels to the region increase the Northern Sea Route’s attractiveness as a passage between Europe and Asia as well as Europe and North America. The shorter route saves both travel time and costs, but only if the ice conditions and safety issues can be solved.
The increase in traffic along the Northern Sea Route is likely to increase traffic also in Northern Norway’s ports. Mr. Arne Langset, Head of Secretariat at Indre Helgeland Regionråd (Norway), believed that the significance of the transverse transport route (supported by the Midway Alignment and E12 projects) is likely to increase simultaneously as the status of the Northern Sea Route rises. For example, the route considerably shortens the travel time of export products from Southern Finland to Asia. Mr. Åsunn Lyngedal, Senior Adviser from the Port of Narvik in Norway, agreed with Langset and reminded the participants that the Narvik port is a good example of cross-border cooperation. The port was originally founded as an exporting port for Kiruna’s mining industry in Sweden.
Shortest Route from Sweden to Finland
The shortest maritime route from Sweden to Finland lies between Umeå and Vaasa. At the same time, it is Europe’s northernmost year-round and regular shipway utilized by, for instance, the companies Komatsu Forest and Rotator Systems, who sell forest machines and their components to Finland and Russia. From their perspective, the market areas of Eastern Finland and Russia are best accessible across the Kvarken and Finland. Umeå’s General Manager for Logistics, Mr. Krister Rosendahl, states that Komatsu’s commitment to the Midway Alignment project is an investment in the future. Likewise to Rosendahl, Mr. Lennart Eriksson, the Area Sales Manager of Rotator Systems, hopes for the further development of the route.
Terminal Manager Ms. Margaretha Gustafsson has been involved in the development of the Midway Alignment project since its beginning. Together with Mr. Per Anders Westin they spoke of how important the route between Umeå and Vaasa is for SCA Logistics AB’s paper exports.
Shipping in Remote and Peripheral Regions
Mr. Vitor Fraga, Minister responsible for Tourism and Transport in the Regional Government of the Azores, spoke of the island’s transport situation and future plans. Ms. Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, Member of the European Parliament, related in her video message the maritime shipping strategies in Europe’s remote and peripheral regions and presented as an example the archipelago of Madeira, which is under the administration of Portugal. Her presentation was followed by the speechof her Policy Adviser Ms. Ana Filipa Da Costa Ferreira. Mr. Nuño Jesus, on the other hand, spoke of the constraints of maritime transport in the islands, whereas Dr.Panayotis Zacharioudakis introduced the situation in the Greek archipelago and Cyprus as an example of the state of Europe’s remote regions.
Mr. Peter Ståhlberg, Managing Director of the Wasaline/NCL Ferry shipping company (jointly owned by Umeå and Vaasa), spoke of slightly different shipping conditions as the seminar day continued on the Wasa Express ferry operating between Umeå and Vaasa. Ståhlberg described the Kvarken’s traffic conditions and Wasaline’s year-round connection and its development and challenges. The official part of the day was concluded by Mr. Mathias Lindström, Director of the Kvarken Council, with the presentation of the E12 Atlantica Transport project and transport concept.
All KvarkenMos speakers in Umeå 21st April 2016, Umeå Text: Johanna Haveri