Automatization and environmental concerns changing the transport sector

Director Oddgeir Danielsen of Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics, what do you consider as the most important trend or issue shaping the development in the transport sector in the ND area by 2030?

We are entering the “age of the machines”, which is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity we are facing in the future.

Automatization and robotization are trends that will undoubtedly change how people and goods are moving. The first autonomous vessels will soon be available and they will change the shipping industry both in the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic. Autonomous driving is also an issue to follow closely with several interesting initiatives currently being developed. Drones for last mile delivery is a good example of solutions that are already being implemented.

Another essential question for the transport sector throughout the globe is the development of more efficient and sustainable sources of fuel. This is a vital question also for us in the ND area. Transport is a heavy polluter and it has the potential to fight climate change in many ways, including e.g. electric and hydrogen fuelled cars. Transport is growing also in the environmentally sensitive Arctic areas. It has been argued that the most environmentally friendly transport in the Arctic area is nuclear powered. Both Russia and China have the possibility to utilize nuclear technologies and they are also both extremely interested in the utilization of the Arctic sea routes.

So, I firmly believe that the solution lies in technology and we will see positive developments in the area both in terms of improved accessibility and environmental impacts of transport by 2030. However, what worries me is that will we in the Northern Dimension area be the ones leading the technological revolution or do we let the others to take the lead. I think we just cannot afford to be left behind in order to secure the prosperity of the ND area also in the future. It is also essential to remember that none of these technologies are born in vacuum but we need infrastructure and policies that support the development and utilization of new technologies.

I would also call for taking a global perspective when discussing future developments. The world is one, and the environmental questions both in the North as well as in the South will affect people globally. For example, when the global temperature is rising, the biomass will diminish in the Southern oceans and increase in the North, which means that food production will be increasingly done in the North. At the moment there is no infrastructure in place to take advantage of that. We need to co-operate and start doing things instead of just talking about it in order to ensure a successful future for the globe.


How does the NDPTL take these trends into account in your activities?

Well-functioning transport and logistics systems is a backbone to successful economic development and the NDPTL will continue its efforts to improve the accessibility of the ND area. We have also taken the technological developments on the agenda. We aim to increasingly provide platforms for politicians, officials, and stakeholders to learn about innovative research and technologies in the transport sector and to discuss future policy developments with experts. We are, for example, organizing an Arctic Road Transport Conference (TÄHÄN LINKKI) in January in Ivalo, Finland, to discuss how the technological advancements and the necessities of climate change are changing transportation systems, vehicles, tyres, and fuels. The solutions tested and used in the Northern areas will also function well in other conditions.
The future of transport industry is closely connected to knowledge and taking advantage of the rapid technological development. The Northern Dimension area has all the building blocks available, making it possible to play a leading role in developing world leading sustainable solutions.