The KvarkenMoS conference, organized earlier this year on April 20th−22nd, visibly highlighted the fact that the Kvarken shipping route between Vaasa and Umeå connects much more than just the two neighbouring cities. The ferry connection in the Kvarken is a small but important part of the route, stretching in the west to Norway’s northern port cities and in the east all the way to Russia and the Baltic countries. The route’s maintenance and development is important for the companies operating along it and for the people living in the region. In addition to several businesses, the vibrant passage benefits the cross-border collaboration concerning culture, education, health care and administration.
The KvarkenMos conference focused on northern transport routes and transport strategies for remote and peripheral regions, and it belonged to the EU’s TEN-T/Motorways of the Sea programme’s seminar series. The conference was held in Umeå, Sweden and Vaasa, Finland and on the Wasa Express ferry sailing between the two countries, and it was attended by representatives from companies, communities, municipalities, counties and public administration as well as EU officials from Finland, Sweden, Norway and other parts of Europe. The farthermost participants came all the way from the Azores, Madeira and Hawaii.
Significant Freight Route
The E12 route, which stretches from the North Atlantic to Russia and the Baltics, is a significant freight route for the companies engaged in foreign trade along it. The Kvarken route saves both time and money for the companies in the northern parts of Sweden and Norway, trading in Russia and the Baltics. It is also the most convenient and affordable passage from Central Finland to the west.
The route will gain aneven more important status if the North-East Passage (the northern sea route connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific) can be used virtually year-round in the future. The melting of glaciers due to global warming and Russia’s icebreaking plans promote the passage’s use and, moreover, its location on Asia’s north side offers a much shorter route from Europe to Asia than the one passing through the Suez Canal. Its attractiveness is likely to significantly increase the E12 route’s traffic in the future.
The Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor and the E12 Atlantica Transport projects promote the maintenance and development of this vital route.
Diverse Remote Regions
The presentations regarding other remote regions’ transport solutions differed from our local example due to the nature of the regions. Ostrobothnia, Västerbotten or Helgeland are not similar to other peripheral regions such as the Azores, Madeira or Cyprus. In addition to the importance of shipping, our local regions are united by the fact that each one of them has had to adapt and find their own, innovative transport solutions.
Finland and Sweden are both large countries, and the Kvarken is relatively far away from the capitals. The short crossing and the long, shared history have created a unique kind of regional collaboration between the cities, which can also be seen in the endeavour to maintain and develop the Kvarken route.
The work continues
The KvarkenMos conference brought together regionally and nationally important and influential people, enlightening them of the importance of the Kvarken connection. Its timing was excellent for the Midway Alignment project, because the project’s financing application for continued funding is currently being examined by the Motorways of the Sea programme.
The successful conference was concluded by Mr. José Anselmo, who was pleased with the Midway Alignment application’s content. However, he reminded that the regional and national decision-makers must work together in order to attain a positive financing decision form Brussels. The search for other financing avenues must also continue.
The KvarkenMos conference attracted a great deal of participants. The conference was attended by 120 people in Umeå and 80 people on the Wasa Express ferry on Thursday, and around 120 people in Vaasa on Friday. The total number of participants was around 150. The conference was organized by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Mobility and Transport, the Kvarken Council, the Regional Council of Ostrobothnia and Region Västerbotten.
Text: Johanna Haveri