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The Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor in the Kvarken Strait

Published the 13 May 2013

The Midway Alignment of the Bothnian Corridor, also known as the Kvarken Multimodal Link, is a vital, year-round maritime transport connection between Sweden and Finland, in the Kvarken strait which is part of the European Straits Initiative (ESI). The link connects to three major roads classified by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) as European roads of strategic importance – the E12, the E4 and the E8 – and to the newly built Bothnian Link main railway line. It also supports and complements the Priority Projects and the Core and Comprehensive Network of the European Union.

The global Kvarken Multimodal Link project is upgrading the transport route in order to fulfil national and international requirements for an environmentally and economically sustainable transport system with increased multi-modality and higher transport security. The project includes a complete transport system for both goods and passengers and is initiated by the city of Umeå in Sweden and the city of Vaasa in Finland.

The upgrade aims at:

  • designing and developing a new ferry for the Kvarken strait
  • improving the environmental and economic performance of port operations and the regional logistic system
  • increasing market attractiveness
  • securing long-term operational stability
  • introducing innovative technologies and solutions as well as disseminating best practices within the European Union

The project is divided into two separate phases:

Phase 1 – 2012–2014: Preparatory activities and feasibility studies, concept development for an improved transport link and land/port infrastructure, design of a new, preferably LNGdriven, environmentally friendly ferry with sufficient icebreaking capacity. Indicative cost MEUR 23.6.

Phase 2 – 2015–2017: Building the ferry, land-based infrastructure construction including eventual LNG transportation and storage, implementation of the logistic system and operations, reporting of results and findings. Indicative cost MEUR 81.

The Kvarken Multimodal Link project aims for funding from municipal, regional and national financers from Finland and Sweden, private companies and European Union TEN-T Call funds.

Ensuring continuity and sustainability

The maritime link through Umeå–Vaasa provides an important connection within the EU from west to east. As a spin-off effect, it also facilitates trade with markets such as Norway, the Baltic countries, Eastern Europe and Russia.

The strong historical and cultural bonds between the northern regions of Sweden, Norway and Finland go centuries back. The region has shared leadership, trade, communications and culture. Also the family bonds across the borders are strong. Ferry traffic between the countries has existed uninterrupted for more than 50 years. The social exchange across Kvarken is of great importance as individuals are given the possibility to live, work, study or travel freely across the borders.

These parts of Sweden and Finland are areas with high growth rates, hosting several large, international companies. The regions of Umeå and Vaasa are among the most dynamic and fastest growing regions in their respective countries. The labour market and higher education availability on both sides of the Kvarken strait are good, but the development is directly linked to the growth in trade and industry. A reliable connection across Kvarken will emphasize the dynamic nature of the regions, and enhance cooperation, trade and expansion further.

Mining, forest and steel industries all have their raw material reserves in northern Sweden and Finland. These industries create the primary transport demand and use the Bothnian Corridor network for transporting significant shares of industrial products to the EU markets. Over 90 percent of the EU’s iron ore mining takes place in northern Sweden. Furthermore, with 20 million hectares of forest area, the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian part of the Barents region accounts for approximately 14 percent of the total forest area of the EU. Thus a considerable amount of goods needs to be transported in form of raw materials, paper and building materials.

The proposed action will help to shift the traffic from road to sea and rail by interconnecting two national rail networks and by bypassing more than 800 km of the existing road route. This also implies positive effects on service quality and safety. Operators, cargo owners and the general public all stand to gain.

The time savings when using the Kvarken Link instead of the road around the Gulf of Bothnia will increase the efficiency and the competitiveness in the transport sector. It will also help to save the environment. Fuel consumption and emissions will be reduced considerably when the trucks take the maritime route instead.

The ferry itself can be built for practically emission-free operation. The goal is to design a modern ship to meet the needs of both passengers and transport companies. Choosing LNG (liquefied natural gas) as fuel and constructing the vessel using new innovative materials and technologies allow for a lighter but stronger vessel, which is less energy intensive. This vessel will meet the IMO’s MARPOL Annex IV requirements on Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA) in the Baltic Sea with flying colours (see article on the conference on reduction of sulfur emission). One of the purposes of the project will be to effectively spread information about technical, operational, safety related, environmental solutions and financial aspects of the implementation of the Kvarken Multimodal Link. All things learned will be a valuable common asset for decision-makers of the future.

Contact

Susanna Slotte-Kock
Director of Development
City of Vaasa, Finland
+358-6-325 4020, +358-40-685 1187
susanna.slotte-kock@vaasa.fi

Thomas Sikström
Infrastructure strategist
INAB - Infrastruktur i Umeå AB, Sweden
+46-70-645 19 04
tomas.sikstrom@umea.se

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