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10.12.2018 //
Text:
Kari Martiala
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Pictures:
Kari Martiala

Finnsteve: Stormy beginnings made way for bright growth prospects

The move to Vuosaari Harbour took place on a bleak and stormy weekend and not everything went according to plan.

“It was snowing like crazy and the tunnel was blocked. We weren’t familiar with the routes and we couldn’t see where the rail tracks were and where the roads were. Terminal tractors and lorry prime movers ended up on the tracks,” recalls Kimmo Lehtinen, Deputy Managing Director of Finnsteve, the harbour operator.

“Having made it through that first weekend, we have come on in leaps and bounds. Nowadays, Vuosaari is a functional concept, market share has increased and volumes are good.”

According to Lehtinen, the world was completely different ten years ago. The financial crisis was at its worst and there was an overcapacity of ships. 

Finnsteve invested more than EUR 100 million in Vuosaari Harbour, including in new machinery and equipment. There has been unprecedented competition for customers among harbours and operators but the company has adjusted to the prevailing circumstances. A balance has been identified in terms of volumes and staffing.

“Back then, nobody believed that we would urgently need larger ships or even any more cargo capacity at all, because ships were not operating at capacity. But business cycles change.”

A home harbour in an excellent location

According to Lehtinen, Vuosaari has proven itself an efficient and functional harbour. For example, container volumes have been surpassed for the entire harbour. Vuosaari is in an excellent location: the majority of Finnish people live within 200 kilometres. There are also good rail and road connections to the harbour. 

“The Port of Helsinki is the most important place for Finnsteve, a top place and our home harbour.” 

Lehtinen has a positive attitude towards the future. The harbour sector is affected by many factors, so he refuses to speculate on the future. The economy is undergoing a period of restricted growth and companies are trying to hold onto their current positions.

“I believe that Vuosaari will continue having an important role to play in the future and it will increase its market share.” 

Ship sizes have increased, both in Finnlines’ traffic and in container traffic. This has been the trend for several years now and, according to Lehtinen, it will continue. 

“Finnlines has extended its vessels. The next step is towards new, larger vessels, which will be completed in the first half of the 2020s. After that, we will see Star-class ships being replaced by even larger vessels. This ship type is still on the drawing board, so we will have to wait until at least the mid-2020s before any are built,” Lehtinen says.

Environmental mindset is part of the Group’s operations

The environmental mindset of Vuosaari Harbour’s owner is an everyday part of the Group’s operations, and this also reflects on Finnsteve. 

“For us, it means things like analysing various LED lighting solutions for the terminals to save electricity and thereby also money. We are also extremely interested in equipment and finding out what suppliers can do in terms of products like electric terminal tractors,” Lehtinen explains.

As volumes increase, operators will need to become more efficient. Both the import and export fields must be as close to the ship as possible and driving must be optimised. 

Finnsteve has made major investments in IT systems in the last few years.

“Digitalisation is coming to our sector at speed, and it will enable many things in the future. At the turn of the year, we introduced a new production control system, and we are currently making a new HR management system.