Ships set sail for greener cargo transportation

RegioStars 2009 FinalistShifting cargo from road to sea to reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions and pollution is at the heart of the Northern Maritime Corridor (NMC) project. This transnational project which covers 20 regions bordering the North Sea and Europe’s northern periphery has led to improved short sea shipping services and greater accessibility to the regions concerned.

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Travelling by sea – a greener way to shift freight in Northern Europe Travelling by sea – a greener way to shift freight in Northern Europe

“We expect that the northern part of Norway and the northwestern part of Russia will be alternative areas for new routing systems and we are working already on that.”
Kirsten Ullbaek Selvig, Norwegian Coastal Affairs Department

Through region-to-region cooperation between private and public sectors, the project is effectively transforming the Northern Maritime Corridor into a ‘motorway of the sea’. Such is its success that the network has been extended to cover the Barents region, improving services between the European continent and NW Russia and providing an alternative to St. Petersburg.

Shifting freight off Europe’s roads

The Northern Maritime Corridor created and fostered a networking arena between key businesses and governments. The various strands of this cooperation included the promotion and creation of short sea shipping initiatives (around 15 altogether), the improvement of maritime safety through risk management strategies and the strengthening of links between Europe and Russia.

Short sea shipping is a highly efficient mode of transport in terms of environmental performance and energy efficiency. It has great potential to solve road congestion problems. A freight ship crossing from the Norwegian port of Bergen to the Netherlands can take as many as 250 truck trailers off the roads.
A number of standing committees were set up between Norway and Russia following on from the NMC conference in Kirkenes to improve maritime safety in the region, identifying gaps and developing joint approaches to overcome them, and making recommendations for risk management strategies.

Closer cooperation

Cooperation between the shipping companies, forwarders and ports of mainland Europe and the UK, and northern Norway and the north of Russia are creating a mutually beneficial situation in which sea transportation is becoming much more frequent. European shipping companies calling at Murmansk are already being monitored to build on their experience of taking cargo in and out of the north of Russia.

In terms of innovation, the NMC project developed principle models as well as concrete ICT tools for the intermodal transport industry. In particular NMC brought in the use of radio-frequency identification for tracking cargo. The innovative character of the project was also pursued in other ways. The project was carried out as parallel projects in the North Sea and the Northern Periphery Interreg programmes and the project included partners in more than 20 regions in 9 countries, including Russia. Many regions set up maritime clusters with as many as 10-20 partners.

The NMC project had an important impact on the expansion of maritime services in the North Sea regions. The most significant achievement was the European Commission’s approval to extend the motorways of the sea layout towards the Barents region.

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