It’s been a good year for the Port of Helsinki. In October the International Green Shipping Summit presented Helsinki with the award for Greenest Port of the Year; given for implementing environmental projects and adhering to or even exceeding the standards of regulations and environmental requirements governing the reduction of harmful emissions. Winners were selected by a vote among industry operators and Helsinki was up against the heavy-weight Ports of Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Gothenburg. The Port of Helsinki got ahead in the race by offering a discount available to cruise liners, encouraging shipping companies to discharge their waste water directly into Helsinki’s sewer system.
‘We are very pleased with the recognition that the long-term work on controlling the environmental impact of port operations and shipping at the Port of Helsinki has now received’ says Port of Helsinki CEO Ville Haapasaari.
Andreas Slotte, Traffic Manager at Vuosaari Harbour (one of the port’s three harbours) accepted the award at the Amsterdam event.
This prestigious award was received just in time for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Vuosaari Harbour. Following the decision to move the bulk of Port of Helsinki’s cargo operations from the West Harbour to Vuosaari, planning and design for the new harbour started in 2003 with construction completed in 2008. Today the Port of Helsinki manages an impressive amount of traffic and cargo, with Vuosaari handling 8.5million tonnes of cargo and roughly 100,000 – 150,000 passengers per year on their Roll on Roll Off Passenger (RoPax) vessels which voyage daily between Germany and Finland.
Being the main port for Finnish foreign trade, Port of Helsinki operates across three locations; the West Harbour, Katajanokka & South Harbour and Vuosaari. The West Harbour services the main bulk of passenger traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn. Katajanokka & South Harbour are the main hubs for servicing passenger traffic between Helsinki and Stockholm, with additional cruise vessels visiting the port during the summer time. Vuosaari Harbour primarily serves container and Roll-on/roll-off (RORO) traffic.
The stats are impressive; as the world’s busiest passenger port, Helsinki saw a total of 11.8 million passengers passing through the city in 2017. Some 280 cruise vessels per year are coming in to the Port of Helsinki with roughly 6000 ferry calls per year to boot. Total cargo volume from the same year surpassed 14.2 million tons with 491,000 TEU containers, 587,000 trucks & trailers and 478,000 cruise passengers (the figure went up to nearly 520 000 this year). Vuosaari Harbour’s land area is roughly 240ha in size, with terminals taking up 140,000m2. They have a 1.5km container berth, 15 roll-on/roll-off ramps, two double ramps and 10 gantry cranes.
According to Jukka Kallio, Director of Vuosaari Harbour, Port of Helsinki ‘Big projects like this don’t happen very often, the harbour is often visited by other port authorities from around the world who want to see how such a large project was executed. We’re proud to be celebrating our 10th anniversary this month’
Jukka’s been seafaring since the age of sixteen and has risen up the ranks to become Director of Vuosaari Harbour, Port of Helsinki. With this experience comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes candidness. It hasn’t always been plain sailing.
West Harbour Hearts & Minds
‘When 70% of imports coming in via the Port of Helsinki comprises consumer goods, it saddens me to hear citizens complain’.
Jukka is referring to the complaints made by residents near the West Harbour. They want to move the truck traffic emanating from the harbour elsewhere. Jukka argues that the answer lies in the introduction of a smarter traffic connection out from the port and he welcomes increasing communications and planning with the City of Helsinki on that score.
‘Every time we can remove one truck out of the West Harbour it is good for us. We are happy to support city planning in this regard. However, when you look at the numbers, we still have some 70000 cars a day on the roads in this area, of which 2000-3000 vehicles from the port. The fact that the reason these trucks are arriving is to supply residents with goods, this part of the story is often left out of the public discourse.’
Statistics Finland estimates that the size of Helsinki’s population will grow by approximately 20 percent from the present by 2030, so with projected population growth, intelligent urban planning is needed now. In a political move to abate the truck traffic nuisance around the West Harbour, Vuosaari Harbour introduced a new twice daily route from Helsinki to Tallinn. The Sea Wind is an old, small vessel that takes little over 30 trucks per voyage. But for the Port of Helsinki, this is a significant line since it removes 120 trucks per day from the roads in downtown Helsinki.
‘I believe that the ports tend to have a negative image, and this needs to be elevated. The best way to do this is to educate citizens on the importance of our ports in the value chain. But at the same time, there needs to be some sort of intelligent design so that cities can work in harmony with the ports.’
‘Due to the strict security measures, most people rarely get to experience the Port of Helsinki environment. It’s the life-line of the economy. Finland can almost be considered as an island, even though it’s not but 90% of our trade arrives and leaves the country by ship. In fact, heavy goods can only be transported efficiently by shipping’.
At a glance: Finnish imports & exports
Vuosaari’s Unitized Cargo Profile is indicative of consumer needs – Imports: Paper, plywood, timber 5 %, Textiles, glass and china 4%, Metal goods and Machines 17%, Miscellaneous 5%, Foodstuff 22% and Other consumer and investment goods 44%. Exports: Foodstuff 8%, Chemicals and Minerals 8%, Metal Goods and Machines 14%, Timber and Plywood 8%, Other Industrial Products 22%, Miscellaneous 6% and Paper and Board 37%.
Frontline of the Finnish Economy
Looking at the volume of goods that is transported through the Port of Helsinki, it constitutes 1/3 of the value of Finnish foreign trade and roughly 40% of total transports by sea. The port’s customers comprise 10,000 importer and exporters and roughly 200 interest companies. The economic impact was calculated at roughly 1.5billion, which was then 5% of GDP of the Helsinki region or 1% of the national GDP. Employment impact is roughly 24000 people in the port and transport branch. 8% of the employed workforce in the Helsinki Region or 1% of the national employed workforce.
Generally, imported goods destined for Finnish consumers are funnelled through the Port of Helsinki. ‘Most normal consumer goods are coming to Helsinki because most of the Finnish population lives in this area,” Jukka explains. ‘1.5 million people live in Helsinki area. All the warehouses and storage facilities are close to the city. As you can imagine, consumer goods have a higher value than for example sand or coal.’
Vuosaari Harbour plays an integral role in the Finnish economy, however there is often more focus on data emerging from other sources. The Finnish national Customs reports are widely used in media and political rhetoric as well as economic forums; however, these reports contain data the Port of Helsinki has already disclosed several months prior.
‘For example, the financial figures for Finnish trade that are released today are based on data from late summer. While these reports state the economy is doing well, at the Port of Helsinki we can already see the numbers from last month which may tell a different story. At the port, we see immediately where the volumes are going up or down. And in that respect, one could say that we are two or three months ahead in our economic reporting. We see all the economic movements here much earlier than when the trade figures are published because nationally. Unfortunately, we don’t have a data collection system that can produce immediate insights into the numbers, however we have these numbers.’
The Port of Helsinki publishes their figures within ten days of the month’s end.
According to Jukka, the figures are especially impressive in the pulp and paper business as evidenced by the new Metsä terminal located in the harbour.
Today, the Finnish forest industry is seeing new growth as the use of plastic begins to decline. According to the National Resources Institute for Finland (LUKES), ‘The growth of the global economy, increasing demand for forest industry products and investments in Finland’s forest sector continue to boost pulp, sawn timber and paperboard exports.’
The new Metsä Fibre terminal takes up 27,000m2. The Metsä Group’s Äänekoski pulp mill was opened a year ago. At present, they are producing 800 000 tonnes of pulp annually and it’s all going through the Port of Helsinki. The dedicated warehouse in Vuosaari, the facility is 400m long, 70m wide with two trains arriving per day to deliver 1400 tonnes of pulp on each train. When the trains arrive, they load the pulp directly in to the containers or directly inside the terminal. As pulp is likely to go up in demand, the expectation for pulp is positive.
When former Finnish PM, Alexander Stubb, sensationally stated; ‘I guess one could say that the iPhone killed Nokia and the iPad killed the Finnish paper industry, but we’ll make a comeback.’ He was wrong and right in equal measures
‘The transition away from plastic packaging is increasing the demand for paper alternatives. So, that is the reason why the production of the pulp is increasing now in Finland. The price of pulp is very high now and the industry is booming. This is based on the fact that trees in Finland grow slowly, taking up to 30-40 years to reach maturity. In, for example, China and South America, trees grow quickly and can be cut down in just five years. So, Finnish pulp is long-fibre, which is perfect for packing materials. A lot of R&D is going in to new applications for biofuels; to produce fabrics for example. But I am sure that the need to replace plastic in packaging will see a revival in paper.’
One could say that Vuosaari harbour and the Port of Helsinki is preparing infrastructure for Finland’s transition to renewables. Especially with the new IPCC SR15 report, the sense of urgency has risen to new heights.
As an example, Helsinki has two powerplants, one in Hanasaari and the other in Salmisaari. Together these plants consume roughly 1 million tonnes of coal per year. However, the times are changing as Helsinki has made the decision to shut down the Hanasaari powerplant in 2024. This ambitious target is part of a push for greener and cleaner solutions for energy in Finland. In the planning is a new multifuel fired CHP-powerplant that will take over the energy production from Hanasaari power plant, using biofuels to produce power for heating.
Jukka explains that, ‘with a proposed 250MW power output, that they are going to be using woodchips or wood pellets instead of coal. Over 70% of Finland is covered by forest, this solution sounds sensible.’
Finland's Environment, Energy and Housing Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen wants the country to rid itself of coal-burning power plants in the next seven years. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy is currently considering a 2030 cut-off date, however Tiilikainen announced earlier this year that he is going to spearhead efforts to bump up the deadline to 2025.
The Port of Helsinki also owns 60% of the Port of Loviisa, situated 90km east from Helsinki. It’s a small port but a tactical purchase to prepare infrastructure for the supply of biomass solid fuels. Such port operations cannot currently be conducted in Vuosaari because the site is designed for unitized cargo, trucks trailer and containers. So, they must plan alternative transportation of biofuels through the Port of Helsinki and Loviisa could be suitable for that.
As energy sources transition from days of coal to cleaner solutions, so is technology enabling greener operations in shipping. Digi-enabled operations are making their way into the shipping industry, as the benefits of automation include not only cost-savings but resource efficiency and increased safety.
According to Jukka, ‘our vision is that, for example, when the container vessel is arriving to the quay, in the future it may be an autonomous vessel, with an auto-mooring system, rather than having people doing this work. The operations would happen in an autonomous terminal where you don’t need gantry crane operators and so on, everything is happening automatically. However, that vision is far, far, far away. In Finland there are limits to how quickly these changes will come about as our volumes are not as high as somewhere else, like Singapore. In addition, we have the winter season which can impact the use of optical or Lidar technologies, etc.’
One challenge in Jukka’s view is that to achieve the abovementioned vision there needs to be ‘information excellence’ and a centralized platform through which data can be aggregated and port operations can be harmonised. A collaboration platform with the aim of sharing real-time data about ETA and ETD between vessels, port authorities, and logistic partners. This will allow smart routing based on slot availability, dynamic slot pricing and detailed information for related port services.
Jukka explains, “Who is going to own this information, it’s sensitive information for the operating companies, for our partners, the trucking companies, for everyone. And everyone is in competition with one another, so you will need trust to bring these kinds of solutions into the port. Everyone operating in the maritime ecosystem needs to recognise the benefits of openness and free trade for the collective whole. We need that mindset in port operations. Pitching this idea is a huge hurdle because there is no proof that it works. It’s a leap of faith. That’s the biggest barrier to the wide-spread adoption of digitalisation in the maritime sector.’
The maritime industry is changing the way it operates. As Jukka points out, contrary to public opinion, the shipping companies and ports are embracing the changes that enable greener operations and increased efficiency. Ports are also looking at lowering emissions and implementing the latest technologies to better serve customers.
Jukka is concerned about public sentiment and understands the concern. Apparently, both the City of Helsinki and citizens complain, a lot. Less so about the passenger traffic and more so about the trucks running through the residential areas near the West Harbour.
As Jukka summarizes, ‘It is important to increase dialogue and raise awareness on the actions we are taking every day to tackle these challenges.’