Rapid shipping is vital to the flower business
Cut flowers celebrate spring parties and gardens fill up with yard flowers in the summer. The explosion of colour in the summer is possible thanks to logistics, as transportation and shipping companies work together to enable a rapid shipping timetable.
Approximately 90 per cent of the flowers imported to Finland come from the Netherlands, where flowers have been traded since the 17th century. The flowers may not necessarily be grown in the Netherlands – they are shipped to terminals from farms around the world.
Flowertrucks Oy, which is based in Sarankulma, Tampere, focuses on shipping temperature-controlled goods. The company can carry any products that need to be kept cool while they are transported.
“Approximately one-third of our cargo is flowers but, during the high seasons, flowers naturally account for a larger proportion,” says Pasi Ruokostenpohja, CEO of Flowertrucks.
The company has its own terminal in Bleiswijk in the Netherlands, where the flowers destined for Finland are loaded into lorries.
“The peak seasons for the flower trade are Mothers’ Day and school graduations in the spring. We also import a lot of outdoor plants in the spring, but these volumes are highly dependent on the weather conditions. Customers want to plant outdoor plants as soon as the soil has warmed up enough.”
The company’s lorries have enough space for cut flowers, potted flowers and flower bulbs, which are imported to Finland during different seasons.
“For example, roses and chrysanthemums are imported to Finland in steady volumes all year round.
Conversely, tulips are grown in Finland but the bulbs are brought in from the Netherlands. A large number of bulbs are needed as 60–65 million tulips are grown in Finland every year. Tulip bulbs are lifted out of the soil in July and August. They are kept in cool conditions and used to grow flowers in Finland for the Christmas season and throughout the spring.”
Shipping volumes remain steady from one year to the next
Finland’s imports evolve with market trends but Ruokostenpohja says that the volumes of flower shipments remain steady from one year to the next.
“Every Friday evening, a lorry is loaded up in the Netherlands. On Sunday morning, it arrives at Vuosaari Harbour in Helsinki, and the flowers are sent to wholesalers on the same day. The flowers are often in shops all over Finland by Monday morning,” he says.
“Friday is the main loading day, but there is at least one Flowertrucks lorry aboard a Finnlines Star ship every day. We use the Star ships because they are the most compatible with our timetable. The ship departs Travemünde at 3:30 am on Saturday and arrives in Helsinki at 9:30 am on Sunday.”
The fastest journey between Finland and the Netherlands takes 38 hours.
“A rapid connection is vital for all fresh goods. Products need to reach wholesalers and be sent out for distribution on the same day.”
Ship transport has worked well for the haulier. At sea, the wind may affect the timetable, and the conditions are occasionally harsh, but safety is the priority.
“We want to serve our customers as best we can – this is the best measure of our operations. We must deliver the service experience promised to customers every day. We are only as good as our latest shipment.”
The timetable is Finnlines’ competitive edge
Back when Finnlines operated the Finnjet, it introduced a rapid timetable concept with the aim of providing the fastest possible connection between Germany and Finland over the Baltic Sea.
“The present Star ships are not quite as fast as the Finnjet but, by altering the timetables, we have been able to realise a concept that suits the needs of the grocery trade, as well as flower shipments. Alongside cost efficiency, the timetable is a significant factor in our ability to compete with land routes,” says Staffan Herlin, Head of Group Marketing, Sales and Customer Service at Finnlines.
The timetables have been adapted to the needs of European wholesalers and shipping firms. The ships bring products such as fruit, vegetables and flowers to Finland.
The Star ships sail from Travemünde to Helsinki in less than 30 hours. This journey time represents a balance between market requirements and sensible fuel consumption.
“The Star ships are capable of faster speeds but the current transit time is adequate, even for the most demanding customer segments. This work calls for fine-tuning and sensitivity. An important operational criterion is quality,” Herlin says.
“In bad conditions, the ship may be late but we are under significant pressure to keep to the timetable. Any delays are offset by efficient terminal work.”
Maritime transport also competes in the area of sustainable development – it is the most environmentally friendly form of transport.
Vehicles must be in good condition
The timetables for shipping fresh goods are tight, so the vehicles used by hauliers must be in good condition.
“We do not have time to let tractor units stand idle, so we have made major modernisations to our fleet. The vehicles represent the peak of Mercedes-Benz’s latest technology, and they have the highest possible standard of safety equipment,” Ruokostenpohja says.
Flowertrucks has 17 tractor units of its own and 40 trailers, as well as around a dozen subcontractors. The number of trailers is growing steadily.
Temperature-controlled semi-trailers can be used to carry goods at different temperatures. For example, cut flowers require a temperature of five degrees, while potted flowers are shipped at 18 degrees.
Flowertrucks is the first Finnish transportation company to receive TSR certification from the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA), which is dedicated to minimising losses of goods at various stages in the supply chain. Certification requires the trainer and the tractor unit to be connected to a monitoring system and a back-up monitoring system. This enables the transportation unit to be tracked in real time, and factors such as the permitted area of operation or route can be specified in advance. If there are any deviations along the route, the system reports them automatically to the party monitoring the shipment.