January 3, 2014

Finland — Arctic maritime transport expert

The icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn, built in Finland, secures the loading of an Aker Arctic polar tanker in the Arctic Ocean. It is the world’s first Arctic oil export transport system, transporting more than 30 million tonnes of crude oil year-round from Siberia to global markets.
The icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn, built in Finland, secures the loading of an Aker Arctic polar tanker in the Arctic Ocean. It is the world’s first Arctic oil export transport system, transporting more than 30 million tonnes of crude oil year-round from Siberia to global markets.
Aker Arctic

Finland is the only country where the Baltic Sea, a crucial maritime transport route, freezes every winter. “Due to these conditions, we have developed know-how in Arctic maritime transport, which is in high demand, even in a tightening competitive situation,” says Mikko Niini, Aker Arctic’s managing director.

Although this winter so far has been exceptionally mild and ice-free, the maritime areas around Finland are usually covered in ice for several months of the year. At its most extensive, it typically covers roughly half of the Baltic Sea, and in very cold winters, all of it.

More than 90 per cent of Finland’s export trade is transported by sea; this fact has been a catalyst for Finns to develop innovative Arctic technology and know-how. Arctic maritime transport today offers business opportunities not only to the engineering company Aker Arctic, but also to several shipping companies and shipyards.

Know-how highlighted

Niini sees a relatively bright future for the sector. Continuous growth, albeit no boom in Arctic maritime transport, is in sight. Opportunities exist, but the development will be long term and sluggish, and will take place in small steps.

“The Baltic Sea is, for Finland, a prototype workshop of sorts, and it serves as a good springboard,” Niini says. “Over the past 10 years, for example, more than 20 Arctic seagoing vessels have been built in the world on the basis of Finnish engineering.”

The greatest growth prospects are in Russia, which boasts a good amount of mining, gas and oil projects that require maritime transport knowledge. Growth prospects can also be seen in Canada. According to Niini, the world’s best icebreakers are still being built in Finland, although competition is becoming more intense all the time.

“Asian countries, such as Korea, but also Germany, represent a challenge to the competitiveness of our manufacturing industry,” reckons Niini. “Nevertheless, demand for our unique Arctic expertise, which has been built up through our history and geographical position, will hold strong in future, too.”

Tekes accelerates growth

Tekes is also contributing to the future of Finland’s Arctic maritime transport by launching a 100 million-euro Arctic sea programme, which targets billions of euros in new business. The programme will help speed up the development and introduction of new products and services in the markets. The three-year programme will continue until 2017.

The key business areas of the programme are environmental technology, Arctic and other maritime transport, offshore industry, maritime industry and new business based on Arctic expertise. A competitive edge will be sought particularly in environmental and ICT know-how.

“We believe that Finnish companies are the most effective partners when creating sustainable business in Arctic conditions,” says Teija Lahti-Nuuttila, executive director at Tekes. “And with Finnish solutions, operations can be built on an environmentally sound basis.”

Text by: Sari Okko

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