Promoting inland waterways

Giant Niederfinow shiplift opens on
Germany’s Havel-Oder Canal

Passenger vessel Pelikan leaves the new Niederfinow lift during the official opening on Tuesday October 4, 2022
Photo © Tomáš Kolařík, Plavba a vodní cesty

A milestone in development of the European waterway network for 3000-tonne barges and push-tows was marked on Tuesday October 4 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.

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.’


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.

Thomas X. (Tom) Grasso, 1940-2022

Tom Grasso

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.

President Rudy Van der Ween

President Rudy Van der Ween

Rudy Van der Ween, promoter of water tourism in the City of Ghent, was elected the president of Inland Waterways International at its AGM on October 9, 2020. Rudy was born on 21 September 1960 in Ghent, Belgium, and is proud to still live there. He has built an impressive network of links with Flemish, Belgian, European and international projects and organisations. Rudy represents the ‘Flemish cities of art’ in the core team ‘Overlegplatform waterrecreatie, -sport en -toerisme’​ and is a member of the sub-teams ‘Inland Waterways’​ and ‘Water recreation’​ (Flemish authorities). He is secretary of NautiV, the Association of Flemish Nautical Companies, a council member of the Flemish Federation of Passenger Transport, president of the Flemish Committee of Sailing Heritage and member of NIWE (Network for Inland Waterways in Europe), PIANC (Belgium member), the High Council for self-employed persons and SMEs and Water Heritage Flanders. He is project leader for Ghent in the Interreg-project ‘Golden Lys’ and project member of Escaut/Schelde2050, whilst being a former project leader for Interreg 2 Seas ‘Yacht Valley’​ – Masterplan Snepkaai marina, Interreg II ‘sustainable canal restoration’​, Interreg IV ‘the river Lys, from source to mouth​’ and ‘Detour’: Compact Cities and Tourism – Developing Tourism in Urban Europe. Rudy is the City of Ghent’s representative in the regional Tourism Boards ‘Toerisme Leiestreek’ & ‘Toerisme Scheldeland’ and the Belgian representative and delegate in AEMA (European Association of Municipalities with Marina/Yachting Harbour) (association on hold) as well as founding board member of Gandavum (association promoting the cultural heritage along the waterways in Ghent and in the province of East-Flanders – association on hold). Rudy organised the hugely successful 2015 WCC in Ghent, together with NautiV.

Alternative Fuels Committee

IWI’s recently expanded Alternative Fuels Committee 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 Alt Fuels 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
Paul Ayres – UK
Sharon Leighton – USA
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
Special advisor
Dr Roger Squires – UK

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