Column
16.06.2020 //
Text:
Ville Haapasaari 
//
Pictures:
Sanna Liimatainen

The release of the travelling is a key step in restoring economic activity

You may now travel freely between Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The recovery of the ferry traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn is now gaining momentum as restrictions on recreational travel were relieved right before the peak summer season. 

During the strictest restrictions, only 30–300 passengers crossed the Gulf of Finland in a day since only a select few had the right to cross the border. Commuting was opened a month ago, but it is still far from normal. Without the COVID-19, 30,000 passengers would travel on the Helsinki–Tallinn ferries every day at this time of the year.

You can now travel from Finland to the Baltic countries and return to Finland without needing to stay in quarantine. Internal border control at Helsinki harbours is no longer applied on passengers travelling to and from the Baltic countries. Ship travel is already going relatively smoothly. 

Safety first

To return the popularity of passenger traffic to its former levels, people need more confidence in the safety of travel. All maritime transport operators place great importance on ensuring ship travel with as little infection risk as possible. During the entire COVID-19 crisis, the Port of Helsinki has developed the safety of the travel chain between Helsinki and Tallinn in co-operation with shipowners, the Finnish Border Guard and the experts of health care and social services. Shipowners have increased their ship capacity so that the Tallinn route, for example, is operated by more ships than normally. Thanks to this, ships can also be less crowded when the departures are not booked full. 

However, each passenger is also responsible for making ship travel safe and hence keeping restrictions lifted. It is particularly important to follow all instructions when there are more people in the terminals and ships. Passengers need to be patient and keep the necessary safe distances, particularly when boarding and leaving the ship. There are distinct signs on the terminal floors and walls reminding people of the safe distances, and safety information is repeated in various languages in the announcements and on the information boards. Passengers are reminded that good hand hygiene is the best way of stopping the virus from spreading.

The Port is still recovering

Here at the Port of Helsinki, we are hoping that passenger ships could start operating on the Helsinki–Stockholm route during the summer. This requires Swedish society to gain control over the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Getting the ship transport in the Port of Helsinki completely open is important for all of Finland. In normal conditions, the Port has an economic impact of 4 billion euros on Finnish society. Ship passengers alone provide the Helsinki Metropolitan Area with 700 million euros of annual income.

The release of the passenger traffic between Finland and the Baltic countries is a key step in restoring economic activity. However, the Port’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will take several years. The difficulties in export may still be ahead of us. 
 
The author, Ville Haapasaari, is the CEO of Port of Helsinki Ltd