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The Czechs want the Oder to be navigable

Last Wednesday, on 26th February 2014, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, an exhibition of ‘The future of inland waterways in the EU - TEN-T and Danube-Oder-Elbe waterway corridor’ was officially opened. The exhibition was also an opportunity to organize an informal debate on the subject. The discussion about the future of inland shipping in Europe involved Polish, Czech and Slovak delegates and representatives of the European Parliament. The patronage over the debate and the exhibition was assumed by the Czech President Milos Zeman. The meeting was hosted by Mr. Vojtech Mynar, a Czech Member of European Parliament.

Poland was represented by delegates from northern and southern parts of the transport corridor a backbone of which is the Oder River. The meeting involved representatives of the Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaport Authority, Szczecin Seaport Stakeholder Council and a large delegation of the Silesia Region, Poland.

Participants signed a Memorandum containing the description of the current status of inland waterways in Central Europe, improvement measures, and the support group (comprising presidents Zeman and Komorowski, and Polish Governors, Czech Association of Districts and large number of local government officials and entrepreneurs from Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia), as well as proposed steps to be taken as agreed during the debate.

In the past, for many years, apart from their maritime function, the ports of Szczecin and Świnoujście handled barge transport in inland shipping linking the Baltic Sea with its hinterland of southern and north-west Poland and western Europe by connecting those areas with the Central European system of inland waterways through the Oder-Havel Canal. The period of 1970-1990 was the best in terms of barge transport handling, since during summer time Oder was navigable on its entire length from the Gliwice Canal to Świnoujście. At that time, barges on the Oder River transported 8 to 10 million tonnes of brake bulk and project cargo. In the record year of 1982, the barge transport accounted for as much as 18.4% of cargo transport to and from the hinterland of the Szczecin-Świnoujście Seaport.
In the early 1990s, since the depth in the middle free flowing stretch of the Oder was significantly reduced and maintenance and modernization funding diminished, shipping along that stretch of the river gradually declined.

Considering the significance of the Oder River as a mode of transport transporting goods to and from the port of Szczecin-Świnoujście, it is necessary to restore navigation class 4 on the Oder River as soon as possible. This is a precondition for utilizing it as the most environmentally friendly mode of transport connecting the port with its distant hinterland. Provided the above materializes, the building of the Danube-Oder-Elbe canal should enhance the attractiveness of the port complex for typical inland shipping cargo and should provide for better services offered by the port for its hinterland, not only including the Czech Republic.
A navigable Oder River, with existing Oder-Havel Canal, Gliwicki Canal, Oder-Spree Canal, and the planned Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal may comprise a very effective and elaborated system of inland waterways connecting the Baltic Sea with west, central, south and south-west Europe through inland ports and sea and river port of Szczecin-Świnoujście. This should provide the Czech Republic with access to the Baltic Sea and possibility of re-establishing their own port terminals in the port of Szczecin, which had been operated there many years ago.