Port of Helsinki
18.11.2021 14:00:27 //
Kimmo Kallonen
Eemeli Sarka

A harbour master is always facing new challenges

Using shore power and automooring at passenger harbours reduces noise and emissions, and helps ships to keep to their tight schedules — and especially the fast ferries to Tallinn. In the Northern hemisphere, the Port of Helsinki is a pioneer in automooring in particular, that is, the automated mooring and unmooring of vessels.


Antti Pulkkinen is retiring after more than 30 years as the Port of Helsinki’s Harbour Master. His successor, Staffan Teromaa, took over in August. In Helsinki, the harbour master is responsible for passenger traffic at the West Harbour, South Harbour and Katajanokka.

“Harbour Master is one of the oldest professional titles in the city of Helsinki,” says Antti Pulkkinen.

A lot has happened during Pulkkinen’s time at the port. Major changes have included the construction of Vuosaari Harbour, technological advancements in port operations, and organisational changes such as incorporation and extensive outsourcing.

“When I started in the early 90s, the Port of Helsinki had more than 300 employees. Now there are about 80. The number of people working in the harbour master’s organisation peaked at more than 60 in the 2000s – and is currently three. Warehousing and cargo handling have been largely outsourced, and technology has evolved both on board vessels and at the port. We’ve made strategic choices: it’s more sensible to handle certain things ourselves and better to acquire external services for others,” says Pulkkinen.

The new harbour master, 36-yearold Staffan Teromaa, has a master’s degree in maritime technology. He transferred to the port from Arctia, where his responsibilities included heading up icebreaker operations. In his new position, he got to jump right in at the “deep end” with budgeting.

“It’s been a very interesting start, and there’s a steep learning curve.”

Vacuum pads work in winter too

Teromaa praises the way his predecessor, Antti Pulkkinen, has promoted investments in new technology. One of the boldest and most progressive investments was in automooring, which works using a system of large vacuum pads called MoorMasters.

“The Port of Helsinki is a pioneer in the use of automooring in the Northern hemisphere. Nowhere else will you find the system used to such a great extent in winter conditions,” says Pulkkinen.

Automated mooring and unmooring is used on two quays at the West Harbour, and serves both Tallink Silja and Eckerö’s Tallinn-bound traffic.

“MoorMasters speed up both mooring and unmooring by a good ten minutes. And twenty minutes is a lot when the fast ferries between Helsinki and Tallinn operate on a two-hour schedule. When ferries don’t need to sail at full throttle to keep to their schedules, they will save fuel and cause fewer emissions,” says Staffan Teromaa.

Auxiliary engines fall silent in Jätkäsaari

Expanding the use of shore power is an important step towards the Port of Helsinki’s goal of becoming carbon neutral. Viking Line’s vessels have already been using shore power for some time in Katajanokka. Now, shore power is also available to vessels on Silja Line’s Stockholm route in the South Harbour, and an electrification project is also well underwayin the West Harbour, where shore power will be provided at quays LJ7 and LJ8 for the fast ferries operating on Tallink Silja and Eckerö’s Tallinn routes.

“Shore power has a big impact. It’s reducing both emissions and noise pollution in Jätkäsaari, as ships no longer need to use their auxiliary engines at the quay,” says Teromaa.

Environmental issues have playeda major role in the harbour master’s  work. The use of traditional fuels is declining, while that of new fuels, such as LNG, is increasing. Tallink Megastar is a passenger ship that runs on LNG, and she will be getting a sister ship next year. The use of traditional fuels is also decreasing in Vuosaari, and bunkering from tankers is becoming increasingly commonplace.

A gradual recovery in cruise traffic

A record number of cruise ships – more than 300 – called at the Port of Helsinki in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic. Pulkkinen and Teromaa estimate that the number of port calls will return to that level in 2022, even though passenger volumes will remain well below pre-pandemic levels next year.

In principle, Helsinki has sufficient capacity, even though its quays have been somewhat cramped at the peak of the summer season.

“350 port calls during the summer would be a pretty ambitious target in terms of capacity, but we still have room in the winter. Winter cruises in iceclass ships are a new service product that has already been tested. It will be interesting to see how appealing Helsinki will be for winter tourism,” says Pulkkinen.

Teromaa predicts that scheduled traffic volumes will increase on the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, but will remain below 2019 figures.