The World Canals Conference, which visits a different waterway destination around the world each year, took place in Inverness from 19th to 22nd September.
The event was organised by the hosts, Scottish Canals, on behalf of Inland Waterways International.
The conference was based around Eden Court Theater situated on the banks of the River Ness, with an extensive range of presentations and seminars over the 4 days as well as study visits to the Caledonian Canal and a number of entertainments laid on to showcase the history and heritage of the Highlands.
Over 300 people took part in the event, travelling to the Highlands of Scotland from around 20 countries across the world including Australia, Canada, India, Panama, South Korea, USA and many European countries.
The topic for the first day of the conference was “Technical Challenges and Innovation”, and delegates heard presentations from 4 keynote speakers on the topics of geophysical tomography, the waterways of Canada, a Scottish Canals project to regenerate the canals in North Glasgow and the automation of bridges on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal.
This was followed by 3 parallel sessions where delegates could choose from 4 short presentations, all still on the theme of technical challenges and innovation. The dozen different sessions covered topics as diverse as floating ecosystems, survey techniques and dredging, a proposed masters degree in inland waterway management, and the recently built Gyeong-in Ara Waterway in South Korea.
The theme for the second day was “Waterways as a Driver for Regeneration” and the day followed a similar pattern with 4 keynote speakers in the morning (followed by a Q&A session) talking about the Panama Canal, the waterfront of New York, urban regeneration and inland waterways of ancient civilizations.
The third day’s theme was “Growing Tourism and Commercialising”, and included keynote speeches about architecture (making the place somewhere that people wanted to go), regenerating canals to create sustainable incomes, and waterways as “slow tourism” destinations.
With 84 speakers over 4 days from over a dozen countries, as well as a number of exhibitors from around the world for delegates to talk to and collect literature from during the breaks, the delegates will have returned to their home countries after 4 days packed full of information, resources, ideas and networking opportunities.