INTERNAL WATERWAYS. Lithuanian Internal Waterways on Their Way to Revival


Kristina Kavaliauskaitė

In the middle of April, after a break that took years, a cargo barge, operated by the SE Inland Waterways Directorate, brought cargo from Klaipėda to Kaunas.

This trip was symbolic, reviving river shipping in Lithuania and the first significant achievement of the new director of the company and his renewed team. From now on, various cargo and containers from all over the world may be delivered via waterways not only to the seaport of Klaipėda, but also to Marvelė international river port in Kaunas.

River transport searches for new opportunities

The barge, loaded at Klaipėda Container Terminal, set out on its first pilot trip, carrying sixteen marine containers or 480 tonnes of cargo. According to Vladimiras Vinokurovas, CEO of the SE Inland Waterways Directorate (IWD), the barge can carry up to 44 marine containers, but they decided to do the first pilot trip with fewer. The team of river transport workers, who used to work only with gravel, sand or rubble, took the barge, loaded with raw materials for the food industry, on the 255 km route and successfully arrived to Marvelė port in two days.

The purpose of the first commercial cargo trip was not only to test the new opportunities, but also identify the possible issues and solve all problems to shorten the future trips to one day.

Environmental and financial-friendly

Cargo shipping via rivers in Lithuania used to be particularly popular in the first half of the 20th c. The network of the Lithuanian inland waterways was an important part of the Northern-Eastern European river shipping. Later the importance of Lithuanian river shipping declined (the reasons for this phenomenon have been covered by Professor Petras Punys in the 2nd issue (2019) of JŪRA MOPE SEA magazine. – Ed.).

Recent intensive developments in European river shipping influenced Lithuania’s decisions too. The emergence of appropriate political will and the demand for more environmentally-friendly means of cargo transportation than road transport encouraged the decision-makers to get back to the issue of reviving river shipping. Thus, this was the best time to suggest such a cargo transportation alternative. Led by the new CEO, the team of the Inland Waterways Directorate has been putting a lot of effort to achieve their goal.

‘This is the first cargo of this type in Lithuania after the restoration of Independence. It should create a huge impulse in the revival of river shipping and reducing the road transport pollution. Western Europe has already developed this type of cargo transport, because it is environmental-friendly, sustainable and much cheaper than road transport. Shipping reduces the traffic load on Klaipėda-Kaunas highway, resulting in less wear of the road infrastructure and less CO2 emissions. Looking from economic perspective, the current shipping costs are 2.5 times lower than the standard carriage of goods by road. The ratio of shipping oversized cargo would look even better.’ says Vinokurovas, emphasizing that European institutions also encourage the development of this cargo transportation alternative as an effective measure of fighting climate change.

Inland Waterways Directorate is optimistic, planning regular routes and looking to the future with hopes of seeing cargo being shipped not only between Kaunas and Klaipėda, but also on other Lithuanian inland waterways. In addition to that, this field of logistics will also attract private business, engaged in freight forwarding on inland waterways.

The goal of developing passenger and recreational shipping

Another of the nearest goals of the Inland Waterways Directorate is to renew and develop passenger and recreational shipping on Kaunas and Curonian lagoons, as well as in the lower and upper reaches of Nemunas. Regional municipalities are already initiating projects for infrastructure development in Kaunas district and city, Jurbarkas, Smalininkai, Birštonas, Druskininkai, Vilnius, Klaipėda region and city, as well as other places.

In cooperation with the IWD, private business is already planning to offer regular passenger trips on the route Kaunas-Nida.

Another project for the nearest future is to connect the Baltic and the Black seas, bringing cargo from Belarus and Ukraine to the port of Klaipėda by rivers.

IWD at European projects

IWD has been actively participating at EU projects since 2018. The EMMA project for strengthening inland waterway and river-sea transport has been taking place in Europe for already several years.

‘We will intensify our participation at the EMMA project (freight forwarding and logistics service development in the Baltic Sea region, strengthening inland waterways and river-sea transport, as well as encouraging the establishment of new international transport services) only now, joining it on its continuation. During the EMMA project shipping issues were identified not only in Lithuania, but also other countries of the Baltic Sea region. Using the experience of other countries, Lithuania has started reviving cargo shipping on Nemunas river.’ says IWD CEO Vinokurovas. Besides EMMA, there are also plans for the project, focusing on the reconstruction of Nemunas river from Kaunas to the river mouth, called ‘Modernisation of the TEN-T Network Way E41’, which involves the reconstruction of the groynes in Nemunas.

Another European project, where the IWD participates as a partner, is the ‘Adapting the capacity of interested institutions to improve the conservation status of common and little terns in Lithuania’. Its purpose is to build islands in Nemunas, which would serve as hatching places for the terns.


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International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been published since 1999
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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been
published since 1999.

ISSN 1392-7825

2017 ©