Column
13.12.2017 //
Text:
Matti Parpala

Simultaneous growth for port and city requires even closer cooperation

Helsinki is growing at an unprecedented rate, and in 2017 the Port of Helsinki may become the world’s busiest passenger port. As the proximity between residential areas and the growing port decreases, we need to take an even firmer approach to cooperation, so that the port can generate as much added value as possible for all stakeholders – including residents.

The port has been extremely beneficial to Helsinki in numerous ways: Concentrating cargo traffic on Vuosaari Harbour has enabled the construction of housing for tens of thousands of people on the outskirts of downtown Helsinki. The new West Terminal 2 has dramatically improved business opportunities between the twin towns of Helsinki and Tallinn – no less than 56 per cent of all journeys on this route are made by commuters or business travellers.

For many Helsinki citizens the port’s existence goes without saying, and some even consider it a central aspect of the city’s identity. Its favourable impact on the city’s economy – through job creation and the money spent by tourists – is undeniable. However, residents in the Jätkäsaari neighbourhood have had firsthand experience of the potential clashes between port traffic, construction site vehicles, and local residents. New traffic arrangements and roadworks in the surrounding streets have not helped either.

Growth requires all parties to make a greater effort to reconcile their various interests. As the Port of Helsinki Ltd’s chair, I would like to ensure that the port continues to operate responsibly and also chooses the best overall solutions for the city and its residents when making decisions that will affect their shared operating environment. A practical example of this would be taking not only users’ but also local residents’ wishes into consideration whenever possible when working on future development sites, such as West Terminal 1.

Cooperation is the keyword not only with regard to the city and its residents, but also in relation to other elements in the sea traffic ecosystem. Helsinki’s success as a port city strongly depends on our ability to ensure better throughput for cargo and passengers, to maintain high usage rates and keep costs in check, and to develop more innovative ways of supporting Finland’s imports and exports.

CEO Kimmo Mäki, who will be moving on to tackle new challenges in air traffic, has done some excellent work in the aforementioned areas, and to end this column I would like to thank him and wish him success in his new position. He is leaving us with a firm foundation on which to further develop the Port into an even more competitive platform for Baltic Sea traffic. 

The author is Chair of the Port of Helsinki Ltd and a member of Helsinki City Council.