Reko-Antti Suojanen, Aker Arctic

The next Finnish government is expected to make decisions on new icebreakers – Securing winter navigation is vital for the Finnish industry

29.9.2022

Some vessels in Finland’s current fleet of icebreakers are reaching the end of their lifecycle. Therefore, the country’s next government must make plans for the acquisition of new icebreakers. It is also important to revive the dialogue between Finland and Sweden about Nordic collaboration in the project.

This was the outcome of the seminar on maritime winter navigation organised by Rauma Marine Constructions in Helsinki on 28 September 2022. The seminar addressed the meaning of winter navigation for Finland and ways to secure it in the future.

“Finland is the only country, all of whose harbours can freeze over during winter. Furthermore, Finnish foreign trade is dependent on maritime navigation. Maritime transport must be possible and secured year-round also from the perspective of security of supply”, said Olli Pekka Rantala, Director-General of Ministerial Governance Department at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, who spoke at the seminar.

Icebreaking is necessary despite global warming

Although global warming is expected to cause shorter winters in Finland, it will not eliminate the need for icebreakers and icebreaking expertise. For example, as the ice sheet gets thinner, the likelihood of pack ice may increase. Moreover, merchant vessels are growing in size, but their engine power and ability to sail in ice are being decreased to cut down on emissions and fuel consumption.

Replacing icebreakers is not only current in Finland but also in Sweden, where the vessels are older than those in Finland. A decision on replacing the vessels has already been made. Sweden has furthermore determined that the new icebreakers must be built in Europe. Sweden is currently negotiating about four new icebreakers for maritime areas, and one breaker to operate on lake Vättern.

Sweden has made preliminary inquiries of RMC’s interest in building the icebreakers. Rauma shipyard has extensive experience in building breakers. Between 1993 and 1998, three multi-purpose breakers were built at Rauma shipyard: Fennica, Nordica and Botnica.

New Board members from Patria and the Finnish Defence Forces

In order to strengthen the shipyard’s security of supply, RMC is changing the line-up of its Board of Directors. Stig Gustavson, a notable figure in the Finnish financial sector and an Honorary Doctor of Technology at both Tampere Tech University and Aalto University, will be the new Chairman of the Board. Mikko Niini, the previous Chairman, will continue to serve as a member of the Board. Petri Hepola, Chief Program Officer, HX at Patria, will join the Board as a member. Lars-Christian Schauman, Commercial Director of Strategic Programmes at the Finnish Defence Forces, will start as a new observer member of the Board. In addition, Karri Haaparinne and Tuomas Kaitila will continue as members of the Board. Observer member Jussi Hattula will also remain on the Board.

“Rauma shipyard has been reborn and is learning to operate efficiently in accordance with its networking strategy. We have already come a long way, but there is still much to do. With the new CEO taking over, we will be able to reach the production capacity the industry in Finland expects both in terms of the shipyard’s operation and technology”, says Stig Gustavson.

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