Port of the month

Port of the Month: Helsinki (Finland)

29 January 2016

As Finland’s busiest passenger port, people are of great importance to the Port of Helsinki. Even while constructing a new terminal, the wellbeing and happiness of the inhabitants of the area and of the passengers are vital for the port. But at the same time, the Port of Helsinki specialises in unitised cargo services for Finnish companies engaged in foreign trade. We had a talk with this interesting port about its challenges and opportunities.

ESPO: Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Helsinki? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

Port of Helsinki: The business of the Port of Helsinki mainly lies in two domains. One is cargo traffic, Finland’s export and import traffic, and the other one is passenger traffic, with 11 million ferry passengers and 420 000 cruise passengers. Helsinki is the only important cruise port in Finland. Passenger traffic activities are located in the city centre, while cargo traffic is concentrated in the outskirts of Helsinki, more precisely in Vuosaari Harbour. Furthermore, quite an important amount of cargo goes by ro-pax ships (ships combining truck and passenger transport) to and from Tallinn.

ESPO: The Port of Helsinki is Finland’s busiest passenger port. Do you foresee a bright future for the cruise and ferry business in your port? Could you briefly describe the main challenges you face in this field?

Port of Helsinki: We do see a good development in passenger traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn. Therefore, we are constructing a new passenger terminal. We also see that Helsinki, as the capital city of Finland, can develop as a cruise port. Port services in Helsinki are at a very high level. It is vital to be able to develop the road connections as well as public transport to and from the ports.

ESPO: The Port of Helsinki is specialised in unitized cargo traffic, containers and ro-ro traffic. How is the business evolving? What are the main challenges?

Port of Helsinki: We are succeeding quite well. Our market share has been growing for many years. The main reasons for that are the excellent infrastructure in Vuosaari Harbour, good operators and lines that are providing excellent services.

It is important to be flexible and to listen to customers’ needs and expectations. Sometimes the passions collide. We are also looking into other traffic modes in order to keep the results at a good level.

ESPO: In the light of international political tensions, the EU has imposed sanctions on Russia. Does your port experience any impact of these tensions between the EU and Russia?

Port of Helsinki: Only when it comes to passenger traffic we notice a difference. People may become careful about travelling to Russia, and travelling outside Schengen may become more complicated if border travel document checking will be reintroduced. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for us.


ESPO: To get goods to the desired destination, a good access between the port and the hinterland is important. Could you tell us how the Port of Helsinki is connected to the hinterland?

Port of Helsinki: At the moment, the connection is very good. For passengers for example, there are good public transport connections to the city centre. For cargo, highways and railway lead right into the harbour area. One example is ring road III, which connects Vuosaari Harbour to the main logistics area in Finland. This road has been improved during the last couple of years.


ESPO: In which areas are you mainly facing competition from other EU and non-EU ports in the region?

Port of Helsinki: Our cargo traffic is Finnish import and export, so there is no competition from ports in other countries. The same goes for ferry passengers. Only in cruise traffic we compete with Tallinn as the distance to St. Petersburg is approximately the same.


ESPO: What are the main investment projects in the Port of Helsinki for the upcoming years? Could you briefly describe the importance of these projects for the port and the city?

Port of Helsinki: We are constructing a new terminal in West harbour as the passenger figures between Helsinki and Tallinn are still growing. This also means investments in the fluidity of traffic in the streets of the nearby areas. The wellbeing and happiness of the inhabitants and of the passengers is vital to us. It is also seen as an important part of the city planning. The West harbour area is being constructed into a housing and office area, which makes the whole area a very big construction site at the moment, which is a challenge in itself.


ESPO: With its Digital Agenda for Europe, the EU is fully engaging itself to better exploit the potential of Information and Communication Technologies in order to foster innovation, economic growth and progress. The 2016 ESPO Conference will, among other topics, address the question how ports are dealing with digitalisation. In view of this, is the Port of Helsinki taking steps towards digitalisation?

Port of Helsinki: Our digital activities are mainly related to the traffic management and check-in procedures. Presently, we have common projects going on with shipping lines and the City of Helsinki. We are sure that in the future digitalisation will also have a good potential when it comes to the development of logistical processes.


ESPO: ESPO has recently joined PIANC’s (the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure) ‘Think Climate’ coalition in order to increase the efforts to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. In view of this, how do you think the Port of Helsinki can help to tackle climate change?

Port of Helsinki: The Sulphur Directive and the use of LNG are naturally important topics in this sector. During this decade, several ships which are using LNG are sailing to the Port of Helsinki. Our responsibility is, in co-operation with shipping lines, to ensure smooth and safe bunkering of LNG. Additionally, we are doing a lot of work in the energy saving sector. For example, consumption of electricity is now about half compared to the situation ten years ago.


ESPO: Last year, the Sulphur Directive came into force. Do you already have an idea of its impact on your port?

Port of Helsinki: Not really, as the price of oil has gone down at the same time. Of course shipping companies are trying out new systems, so we need to be alert and keep up the discussion concerning the methods that will be in use in the future.


ESPO: ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, an FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. What is Helsinki’s approach for measuring the port’s performance?

Port of Helsinki: We have traditionally measured our performance and the performance of our competitors with several measures. This gives us important information and a base for the development work. Standardised and open indicators would help everyone.

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