More waterway transport on Finland Saimaa canal

31 December 2020

The Finnish government has decided to grant funds to lengthen locks in the Saimaa Canal. The Saimaa canal is a 43 kilometer-long canal connecting Lake Saimaa to the Gulf of Finland. The canal is partly in Russian territory; Finland has rented the area from Russia. The canal has 8 locks, 5 of the locks are situated in Russian territory, 3 on the Finnish side.

The plan is to lengthen the locks by moving the upper gates 11 meters upstream in 2022-2024.  This will enable 93-metre vessels to navigate Lake Saimaa. At the moment, the maximum length is 82.5 metres. The longer ships are able to take up to 3,200 tonnes of cargo at a time, whilst the present ships can only take 2,500 tonnes. This will improve the competitiveness of water transport. In addition to cargo vessels, the decision will also bring new passenger ships to Lake Saimaa and new generation cruise ships are being planned.

The lengthening of the locks supports strategies aiming to reduce CO2 emissions in the Lake Saimaa regions and Finland as a whole. Developing the Saimaa canal is an important step to execute the Green Deal in Finland as after the extension of the locks, more cargo can be switched from road to waterway transport. The new cargo and passenger ships can also run on electricity or other renewable energy sources.

The decision by the government came at the right time, many of the cargo ships navigating Lake Saimaa nowadays were built towards the end of the 1980s and will go out of use in the next few years. Cargo and cruise ship owners have been unwilling to order Saimax-class vessels of the present size, as they were waiting for the decision to lengthen the canal locks. Moreover, the IMO Decree on compulsory ballast water invasive species filters are close to impossible to implement on some of the old Saimax vessels and an expensive investment. Now ship-owners and industry can start new investment.

Further information:

Kaisa Hirvonen
naviSaimaa – developing Saimaa waterway project
+358 40 687 2618