Canals cross EU eastern borders

In just a few years, three bottlenecks on the eastern borders of the European Union will have been removed, thanks in part to the persistent efforts of many organisations working together, campaigning and lobbying for canals, waterways and inland navigation.

First to be completed was the restoration of the Augustowski Canal in Poland and its continuation in Belarus’ through to the Neman river, opened in 2009. The second, long-awaited, development is the construction of a permanent lock in Brest-Litovsk at the western end of the Dnieper-Bug Canal (see map in header).

Mukhovets River in Brest © Google Earth

The lock will replace the weir bypass on the left bank (bottom of this view, © Google Earth) with its two earth dams

This lock should replace in 2012 the temporary earth dam structure which for many years blocked through navigation to Poland’s Bug River. Finally, the canalised river Bega will be opened from the Tisa in Serbia through to Timosoara in Romania; again work is in progress on restoration of the first lock in Romania.

Our exhibition From Limerick to Kiev: Waterways for Tomorrow’s Europe contributed to promotion of these projects by showing in 2003/2004* how an integrated European waterway network is a concern for tourism and long-distance recreational boating, just as it is a concern for industrial and economic development through inland water transport. The exhibition map and panels were also shown at the boat lift at Strépy-Thieu in Belgium in 2004, and at a session of the Working Party on Inland Waterways at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva.

Boatowners have for long been planning long-distance cruises throughout the continent, as shown by this planning map for the cruise of a lifetime from Paris to Moscow, Perm and Arkhangelsk.

A complementary issue is that of regulations for crossing that eastern border (or ‘internal border’ in the case of Serbia-Romania); discussions are in progress and outline agreements have been reached, one having been signed recently in Warsaw by Poland and Belarus’, but in practice there are still substantial administrative hurdles to overcome. Such cruises have now become feasible, at least in terms of reglementation, since the Russian Federation passed a law on May 25th allowing foreign recreational boats to use its inland waterways.

Waterway route to the Urals and the White Sea

The route planned by Richard Parsons with Xanthos

* first in Grenoble, for the 10th anniversary of foundation of Euromapping, then in October 2004 at the European Parliament building in Brussels; the partners for that operation were IWI, the Alliance Internationale de Tourisme, the European Boating Association, DBA The Barge Association and ICOMIA

2 thoughts on “Canals cross EU eastern borders

  1. When will the E40 waterway project (connecting Black Sea with Baltic Sea by Dnipro river) get started, and what are the deadlines?

    • Your excellent question has been forwarded to key contacts in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, as well as the European Commission, but in all probability it is going to take many years. In France, for a much easier project (the Seine-Nord Europe Canal, 107 km and 6 locks), the start of serious studies of the current project was 1993, and the canal will not be completed until 2024. That’s more than 30 years for an ‘easy’ project, with 42% funding from the EU. That is just to give an idea of the lead time for a major inland waterway project.

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