Managing Director Tiina Tuurnala: "The Finnish Economy Depends on a Successful Shipping Industry"
The sea has always been close to Tiina Tuurnala’s heart. During her impressive career as a civil servant, Tuurnala has also dealt with road traffic. Now she is returning to her roots.
Tiina Tuurnala has served as the Managing Director of the Finnish Shipowners’ Association since the beginning of April. She hails from Helsinki and holds a master’s degree in technology. She has been familiar with the sea and seafaring since her childhood: her parents were born in Kotka, and the family has a summer cottage in the archipelago, where Tuurnala spent her summers as a child.
“I have always found the sea fascinating, a strong element related to freedom. I have been exploring islands and islets since my childhood. I have always wanted a job related to the sea.”
Tuurnala has enjoyed her career as a civil servant: making a difference in society and implementing major development projects are important for her.
“When I was asked to take up this position, I thought about it for a long time. Eventually, I felt that changing perspectives was an opportunity to learn something new, particularly in terms of business and industry.
Naturally, it was also interesting to be able to fully focus on the sea again.”
The world’s most demanding sea area
Tiina Tuurnala studied location information and map technology at Helsinki University of Technology. After graduating, she wanted a job with the Finnish Maritime Administration that involved nautical charts. She successfully applied for a summer job.
This marked the beginning of her career path. Over the years, she gradually moved on to more demanding jobs. In 2003, she was appointed as head of hydrography and a member of the Executive Board of the Finnish Maritime Administration.
“It was a fascinating job for a thirty-something, and it came with responsibility for hundreds of people. At the time, the agency operated its own surveying ships.”
The Finnish Transport Agency was established in 2010, and Tuurnala was selected as Development Director. She was responsible for strategic steering and preparation, product development and operational development.
With the new job description, her duties were expanded to cover road traffic, automation and digitalization.
“In this respect, Finland is a world-leading country in many ways, at sea and on land.”
In her previous jobs, Tuurnala had already become familiar with the growth and safety of traffic on the Baltic Sea, as well as ensuring the cleanliness of this semi-closed sea area. Every year, the Finnish Transport Agency’s Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) centres prevent dozens of ships from running into the rocks.
“The Gulf of Finland is a shoal, with an average depth of 38 metres.
It has a great deal of intersecting traffic and rocks, in addition to the ice in the winter. As well as being magnificent, the archipelago is one of the world’s most difficult sea areas to navigate, and the risks are high. Information, technology and highly competent people ensure that the traffic is safe.”
Competitiveness, environmental responsibility and innovation
The members of the Finnish Shipowners’ Association consists of 24 shipping companies and more than 100 vessels that operate internationally. Most of the shipping companies are family businesses or small enterprises.
The association has offices in Helsinki and Mariehamn. The association and its predecessors have safeguarded the interests of shipping companies in labour and industrial policy since 1917.
The Finnish shipping industry has enjoyed great success in the 2010s. Finland is practically an island, and its economy is highly dependent on well-functioning sea traffic. Around 90 per cent of exports and nearly 80 per cent of imports are shipped by sea. The employment rate in the shipping industry has been improving, with the maritime cluster employing nearly 50,000 people. The Finnish shipping companies have a total of around 12,000 employees.
“The Finnish economy depends on a successful shipping industry. The long distances and shipping in the winter add to the challenge.”
According to Tuurnala, the future is looking good for the Finnish shipbuilding and shipping industries.
The Finnish flag is competitive in Europe – and it is hoped that it will remain so.
“It is important in terms of security of supply and the employees of the Finnish shipping industry, to begin with.”
Environmental regulations have required and will continue to require major investments.
According to Tuurnala, the Finnish shipping companies have successfully attended to their social and environmental responsibilities.
In addition, new technologies are being developed.
“Digitalization and automation will also transform the shipping industry.
Combined with new operating models and logistics chains, they will have a favourable effect on Finnish shipbuilding companies.”
Cargo traffic continues to be the most inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to move goods from one location to another. Besides this, Tuurnala is seeing no signs of decreased activity in passenger and cruise traffic. Of all tourists, 24 per cent arrive in Finland on a passenger ship.
“People will also want to enjoy cruises, and no one can tell what the ships will be like in 15 years, for example.”
The Finnish maritime cluster leads the way
Having started in her job at the beginning of April, Tuurnala feels it is too early for her to determine major goals. She will listen to the members’ thoughts and wishes with regard to the present state and future direction of the industry. The strategy will be announced in the autumn.
When asked for her three wishes for Finnish shipbuilding companies, Tuurnala says that the most important aspect is to maintain the competitiveness of the industry. This requires political decision-makers to understand the significance of the Finnish shipping industry. For example, subsidies for merchant vessels and tonnage tax are necessary to ensure that Finland remains competitive with the other EU countries. The second most important aspect is added visibility for innovation and trailblazing in the industry. The third is appreciation for the expertise in the field.
Tuurnala also lists the close cooperation between the maritime cluster and the authorities as a strength for Finland.
“Expertise plays a major role. We have a high-quality shipbuilding industry and expertise in navigation and shipping under challenging circumstances, which is exceptional.
Overall, the environmental requirements arising from climate change will mark a major change for the global shipping industry. In terms of expertise in digitalization, environmental technologies and automation, the Finnish maritime cluster has excellent opportunities to lead the way globally.”