During the EMMA Extension project, three pilot sailings by IWW vessels have taken place in Lithuania, where the main inland waterway is river Nemunas and Curonian lagoon from Kaunas to Klaipeda. Before the EMMA Extension, there had not been any cargo transportations by inland waterway vessels from Klaipeda seaport.
The first commercial sailings between Klaipeda-Kaunas-Klaipeda by barge took place in spring 2019 when, in total, 33 containers were delivered. In May 2019, sailings continued with the transportation of 38 containers. At the end of May and early June 2019, 20 more containers were transported. Altogether 91 containers have been transported by inland waterways and the total distance travelled has been 1400 kilometres.
The EMMA Extension pilot cruises have helped to identify the areas that need to be fixed when it comes to cargo transportation by inland waterway vessels. For instance, in 2021, the Klaipeda seaport will upgrade their computer systems to include inland waterway vessels for cargo operations. Furthermore, a container distribution terminal will be built in Kaunas and a new barge is expected to be built and commissioned in 2021.
Following the test runs, the Lithuanian government has provided funding for improving inland waterways. This includes 2,6 million euros’ investments for purchase of machinery for maintenance works in 2020 – 2021 and investments worth 27 million euros for E41 fairway modernisation works in 2021 – 2023, increasing the depth of inland waterway.
In addition to containers, the future aim is to move also other type of transportations into inland waterways, including transportations of grain, scrap metal and other bulk cargo.