Column
07.04.2020 //
Text:
Ville Haapasaari
//
Pictures:
Sanna Liimatainen

The port ensures Finland’s security of supply

The coronavirus has caused an external shock to Finland, which has enormous implications for people’s everyday life, mobility and Finland’s accessibility. Cross-border passenger traffic is at a standstill almost everywhere in the world. Flights have been banned from Europe to the United States. The EU has closed its own external borders. The borders within Europe have also come back stronger than ever before during the Schengen system.

Ville Haapasaari Vuosaaren satamassa

The Port of Helsinki was among the first in Finland to feel the effects of the worldwide pandemic. A clear decline in cargo traffic, particularly in containers, was already visible in February. Over the last few weeks, ferry traffic has almost completely stopped at the busiest passenger port in Europe.

The coronavirus crisis shows the importance of cross-border logistics 

The coronavirus crisis shows how dependent Finland is on logistics and world trade as a small country. Without export and functional logistics, our standard of living would be radically lower than it currently is. Almost half of our gross domestic product is tied to export companies.
 
A total of 45 per cent of the value of Finland’s foreign trade passes through the Port of Helsinki. The Port of Helsinki is also the most important transit point for Finland’s daily food supply. Our greatest responsibility in a crisis is to safeguard the passage of this cargo traffic and Finland’s security of supply. At this very moment, our personnel are working at the harbours together with our cooperation partners, making sure that Finland’s import and export remain functional. 

The halt in passenger traffic has led to an immediate and significant drop in the turnover of the Port of Helsinki. This drop is even greater for shipping companies. Shipping functions must be kept viable throughout the crisis. The National Emergency Supply Agency responded quickly with support measures to secure the critical cargo transported on board passenger ships. The Port of Helsinki has also eased its payment policies due to the situation.

A stimulus package for the maritime sector would spur on the upcoming economic upswing

Despite the emergency conditions, cargo traffic is passing through Vuosaari Harbour almost normally and is also running in the harbours in the city centre. Although the majority of the car ferries familiar to passengers are currently out of operation, three of them are transporting cargo between Helsinki and Tallinn. 

When the restrictions on mobility are dismantled at some point, the economy will start to recover and work will continue at harbours. However, a total halt in the country’s economic activity requires the assistance of a stimulus package to ensure that the economic upswing is sufficiently swift from the start. In the maritime sector, removing fairway dues would help shipping companies bridge the loss in income caused by the crisis, for example. Building routes to ports and supporting the ports’ own investments would guarantee smoother connections to the world and a more vibrant country. 

For now, we must cope with these exceptional times and do our part, to the best of our ability, to overcome this crisis. I wish you all strength and patience!

The author, Ville Haapasaari, is the CEO of Port of Helsinki Ltd