Promoting inland waterways

IWI’s president and Council wish all members and supporters a very Happy New Year 2024!

World Canals Conference 2023 online

Following Covid disruption to the planned WCC schedule there was no in-person conference in 2023.  In its place, IWI hosted a series of highly successful webinars covering important waterways issues and presented by experts from all over the world. Five monthly webinars took place from June to November. For more information about the series, go to our dedicated webpage. The subjects presented by the experts from around the world are:

  1. Managing Canals: Working with Partners, Including Volunteer Organizations – Waterways Ireland
  2. What Makes China’s Lingqu Canal Unique – Lingqu Canal Museum
  3. Different Approaches to Regenerating Canals
    a. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (USA)
    b. IWA Waterways Recovery Group, UK 
  4. Greening Inland Cruising Vessels
    a. IWI’s Low Impact Navigation Working Group and
    b. Les Canalous, France
  5. Canal Restoration and Urban Renewal
    a. Lachine Canal (Parks Canada)
    b. Canal de Roubaix, Lille Metropolitan Authority (France)

The webinars can be viewed on our YouTube channel

Members look forward to the next World Canals Conference in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on June 23-26, 2024

Aquarelle passing under the Grimonpont lift bridge on the Roubaix Canal in 2012 (© DEM)

New canal to boost combined transport in SW China

During his visit to Guilin in China, on June 1, 2023, IWI’s president Rudy Van der Ween was shown the works in progress to create a new waterway in Southwest China, the Pinglu Canal. The new canal, to open in 2026, is expected to boost combined transport in Guangxi Province and beyond, reducing the distance for waterborne freight from Beibu Gulf to the provincial capital Nanning by no less than 565 km.

Rudy also visited the historic connecting canal between the Yangtze and Pearl River basins, the Lingqu Canal, at the invitation of our new member the Lingqu Canal Museum, and Guangxi Province. The Lingqu Canal city of Guilin and the town of Xing’an at its entrance will host the World Canals Conference in 2026.

Location of the 130km long Pinglu Canal in Guangxi Province, SW China
Rudy Van der Ween sees the visitor display at the entrance to the future Pinglu Canal from the You Jiang river east of the Guangxi capital Nanning

IWI declares position on climate change

Recognising the serious impact that climate change is having on our environment, IWI Council adopted the following declaration at their meeting in March 2023.

We, members of Inland Waterways International, are deeply concerned about the growing threat of climate change to our inland waterways.

Inland waterways are a crucial component of our planet’s ecosystem, providing essential services such as transportation, irrigation and recreation.

However, waterways are increasingly under threat from rising temperatures droughts, and more frequent and extreme flooding, all caused by climate change.

We recognise that the effects of climate change on our inland waterways are already evident in many parts of the world. We are witnessing reduced water flows, increased water temperatures, and changes in aquatic ecosystems. These impacts have far-reaching consequences for our communities, economies and the environment. Recognising the urgent need to address the impact of climate change on our planet, and the role that inland waterways play in mitigating and adapting to these impacts, we, Inland Waterways International, declare our commitment to:

  1. promoting sustainable practices in the use and management of inland waterways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate change impacts;
  2. advocating for the protection and restoration of natural habitats and
  3. biodiversity along inland waterways to enhance carbon sequestration and support ecosystem services;
  4. collaborating with stakeholders across sectors and borders to develop and implement innovative solutions for climate change adaptation and mitigation in inland waterways;
  5. supporting research and knowledge sharing on the impacts of climate change on inland waterways to inform decision making and promote evidence-based policies and practices;
  6. encouraging public awareness and engagement on the importance of inland waterways for addressing the challenges of climate change and promoting their role in sustainable development.

We therefore call upon governments, waterway authorities and civil society organisations to take urgent action to address the challenge of climate change on our inland waterways.


IWI brings together people and organisations who support the conservation, use, development and proper management of inland waterways worldwide. It aims to raise public awareness of the benefits of using waterways for a wide range of activities, from inland water transport to cruising, towpath walking and other recreational uses, as well as appreciating their architectural and landscape values as heritage. It also promotes restoration, where appropriate, of waterways which have become derelict.
Its membership includes leading navigation authorities, as well as voluntary bodies, museums and commercial companies. Individual members include both users and experts in the various disciplines.
All have a keen interest in both the history and the modern significance of inland waterways for commercial carrying and recreational use. Today the membership covers 26 countries from around the world.

Giant Niederfinow ship lift opens in Germany

A milestone in development of the European waterway network for 3000-tonne barges and push-tows was marked on Tuesday October 4, 2022, when the 36m-high Niederfinow shiplift was officially opened.

The first vessel to pass through the new lift, with its striking architecture, was the Waterway Authority’s own icebreaker Frankfurt. Barges and tankers up to 115m long can now transport cargoes between the Polish port of Szceczin and Berlin and far beyond. When we visited the site in May 2022, before attending the World Canals Conference in Leipzig, we saw that even a single-barge Polish push-tow had to split to pass through the original lift, opened in 1933, with its usable length of only 83.50m.

Thanks to the new lift, completing more than 40 years of works throughout the Mittelland Canal and the Havel-Oder Canal from the Rhine to the river Oder, Berlin is now uniquely placed for a revival of its historic status as a strategic inland port. The new lift will significantly boost waterborne trade between the Polish port of Stettin and Berlin, including river-sea vessels. Such vessels are expected to expand trade with the Scandinavian countries and the UK.

It took 14 years to build the new lift, since the initial designs had to be modified several times. The cost thus increased to 520 million euros. The boat lift is so unique that German engineers advised the Chinese builders of the Three Gorges Dam with their 112m-high boat lift. However, construction time for the Chinese lift was much shorter, and it opened in 2015.

passenger Niederfinow Lift opening
The passenger boat Pelikan leaves the new lift during the opening ceremony on October 4, 2022 (Tom Kolarik, IWI)

Completion of the Niederfinow lift coincides with the current need to expand Europe’s transport infrastructure and diversify its sources of raw materials. In the context of Europe’s current energy crisis, the waterway could be used by tanker barges carrying liquefied natural gas from the terminal at Świnoujście, Poland, which is expected to increase its LNG output by a third in 2023. A large container terminal at Świnoujście is also expected to generate waterborne container traffic to inland terminals on the route to Berlin and beyond, including to the Czech Republic.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing said at the opening ceremony that the lift is also of vital importance to the environment: ‘The more traffic we move from roads to waterways, the fewer trucks there will be on the roads. This will reduce emissions, traffic congestion and noise.’

Thomas X. (Tom) Grasso, 1940-2022

It is with great sadness that we announce that that Tom Grasso, IWI’s President between 2003 and 2008, died on Monday June 6 after a long illness. Read a short obituary here, which will be completed by a special page paying tribute to his achievements. Tom will be sorely missed by his many friends in IWI and far beyond.

Tom Grasso

Low Impact Navigation Group

IWI’s recently renamed Alternative Fuels Group, now the Low Impact Navigation Group aims to promote methods to accelerate the transition of personal and commercial water craft used on inland waterway toward clean and sustainable propulsion systems. Its audience is the boating public as well as commercial interests, corporations and legislative agencies.

Its goal is to provide information on the latest technologies and best practices to these audiences so that they can make the best informed decisions about how to reduce carbon emissions from marine propulsion. The Committee is chaired by Simon Boyde. See Low Impact Navigation page

Pioneering electric boat on the Seine in 1881 (from Kevin Desmond’s book Electric Boats and Ships: a History)

IWI at Boot Düsseldorf

The Inland Waterways Pavilion assembled by IWI for members at Boot Düsseldorf attracted great interest. See a film made by the Serbian Nautical TV channel Nautika TV. The focus is on Danube Propeller stand, but the video gives an excellent overview of the whole pavilion. Danube Propeller & IWI 2019 at boot Düsseldorf – NAUTIKA TV Show Presentation

Nautika interviews IWI president David Edwards-May
IWI’s president David Edwards-May interviewed by Nautika TV at Boot Düsseldorf 2019

Navigating a Changing Climate


IWI is a member go the ‘Think Climate’ coalition under the auspices of PIANC (the The World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure), working on a far-reaching initiative Navigating a Changing Climate. The coalition members believe that it is essential to adapt inland and maritime navigation infrastructure; uncertainty can no longer be used as an excuse for inaction. The evidence is unequivocal. Climate change is happening. Adaptation of inland and maritime navigation infrastructure is vital, and the time to act is now. See the coalition web site here. A global declaration on climate change adaptation for transport was presented at COP22 in Marakech, Morocco, on November 17th, 2016. The coalition also includes the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH), the International Harbour Masters’ Association (IHMA), the International Maritime Pilots’ Association (IMPA), the International Bulk Terminals Association (IBTA), the European Dredging Association (EuDA), the Smart Freight Centre (SFC), the European Sea Ports Organisation (ESPO) and the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST).

Join IWI

Members receive regular news of campaigns and developments in all areas through the magazine World Wide Waterways and newsletter IWI News.
Information is also regularly posted on our blog and Facebook page Inland Waterways International – IWI

IWI officers

Rudy Van der Ween – Belgium
Sharon Leighton – USA
Paul Ayres – UK
Past President, Managing Editor
David Edwards-May – France
Liaison World Canals Conference and World Canal Cities Organisation

Dave Ballinger – Canada
Di Harris – UK
Finance Officer
Norman Smith – France

IWI Council

IWI Council Members at the gala dinner of the World Canals Conference in Athlone, Ireland, from left to right: Barbara Sheridan (US), Paul Ayres (UK), Norman Smith (UK), Dave MacDougall (Canada), Mike Miller (Ireland), Peter Linssen (Netherlands), Sharon Leighton (US), David Edwards-May (France), Colin Becker (Ireland), Dave Ballinger (Canada), Linda Barth (US), Rudy Van der Ween (Belgium), Roger Squires, Di Harris and David Wadham (UK). The other Council members are Edo Bricchetti (Italy), Krsta Paskovic (Serbia), Mike Clarke (UK), Benny Ruus (Sweden) and Bill Miles (US).
Photo by Bob Naylor, Watermarx

Håverud Aqueduct
Håverud Aqueduct on the Dalsland Canal in Sweden, which celebrated its 150th anniversary on 31st August 2018