Port of Helsinki
18.1.2022 08:58:06 //
Juha Peltonen

Ten-year development programme to schedule port investments

In line with the City Council’s policy, the Port of Helsinki’s development programme is based on consolidating Tallinn traffic on the West Harbour, so that Swedish ships can be transferred from the South Harbour to Katajanokka.

In February 2021, after several analyses of the port’s various locations were completed, Helsinki City Council decided to adopt the “consolidation option” for developing
the port’s operations.

Tallinn-bound passenger-car ferry traffic will be consolidated on the West Harbour and Swedish ships on Katajanokka, thereby freeing up a large area of the South Harbour for other use. This arrangement will require additional terminal space both at the West Harbour and in Katajanokka, and also a port tunnel to keep road traffic flowing smoothly onto Länsiväylä. The West Harbour area will also be extended with the aid of land reclamation.

“The City wants to locate the new Architecture and Design Museum in the South Harbour. The same programme will also create a sustainable port solution that will pave the way for growth in both the port’s and our customers’ business for decades to come,” says Pekka Hellström, Vice President, Technical Services at the Port of Helsinki.

Pekka Hellström
“It’s a ten-year investment programme to schedule multiple, interlinked port arrangements,” says Vice President Pekka Hellström. Photo: Eemeli Sarka

The development programme will affect Helsinki’s land-use planning, master and city planning, and traffic planning. This package will be honed in collaboration with the City Executive Office and Urban Environment Division, so that the new arrangements can be implemented within the next ten years.

“Our programme planning will cover the port company’s investments. The City is running its own project for the vacated areas,” says Hellström.

The Development Programme 2021– 2030 is a framework decision on how to steer further preparatory work. It will act as a basis for Helsinki’s city planning and enable the Port to launch permit processes. Each investment will be separately decided on at a later date. Investments of about EUR 560 million will be made in the programme during 2022–2030.

“The development programme will be used as a basis for more detailed planning, and will enable funds to be allocated to permit processes. As we’re building a tunnel, new quay structures, and passenger terminals in both the West Harbour and Katajanokka, millions of euros will be needed for the preparatory studies alone. The programme will act as the framework for this,” says Hellström.

The Port’s proposed development programme will most likely be discussed by the City Government before the end of 2021.

Everything starts from the West Harbour

All of the development programme’s investments are interlinked, as arrangements in one part of the port will affect other parts. The first step will be to increase the capacity of the West Harbour, so that Tallinn passenger-car ferry traffic can be consolidated there.

“Our scenario work indicated that the West Harbour is a traffic bottleneck. Traffic flow must be streamlined before we can transfer more traffic from Katajanokka to the West Harbour. The port tunnel is the first link in a chain that will enable us to make this transfer,” says Hellström.

Satama tunneli kuvitus EN

A tunnel leading from the West Harbour to Länsiväylä will enable the port to expand its operations. All of the trucks passing through the port will be directed through the tunnel, as will westbound car traffic leaving the port. The tunnel will be built as the port company’s own investment. It will not therefore be a street or highway, but rather a property managed by the port. The port will finance it using revenue from harbour fees.

“The rough timeframe for the port tunnel has construction starting in the mid-2020s and the tunnel scheduled for completion in about 2027,” says Hellström.

If necessary, the tunnel can later be extended in conjunction with the development of Salmisaari. The demolition of West Harbour Terminal 1 was already on the agenda before the development programme was drawn up, and this will begin before the tunnel construction site is established.

“It’s a former harbour warehouse that was converted into a terminal in the mid-1990s and is now reaching the end of its life. It will be replaced by a terminal complex that will cover the end of the port tunnel. That is, the entrance to the port tunnel will be in the terminal’s basement,” says Hellström.

The new complex, aka the Sea Travel Center, will combine a passenger terminal with business and office premises. The port company will probably relocate its own offices from the South Harbour to this complex. City planning for the Sea Travel Center in the northern part of the West Harbour is currently in the preparatory phase. If construction of the new terminal and tunnel entrance is to begin in 2025, extension of the harbour area would have to start in 2023 and demolition of Terminal 1 in 2024.

A second new terminal in Katajanokka

When Tallinn-bound traffic is transferred to the West Harbour, there will be room for Stockholm-bound ships in Katajanokka – but it will also need more terminal space.

“The Swedish ships are surprisingly large in terms of their passenger capacity, and they’re always on the move at the same time. It’s not really possible to change the schedule for traveling between Stockholm and Helsinki – that is, departing in the afternoon and arriving in the morning – and so more space is needed in Katajanokka.”

K8 (Katajanokka’s existing terminal) will either need to be fully renovated and extended or replaced with a completely new building. Although the development programme is being honed with an eye to new construction, the matter is still open, as K8 is protected in the city plan.

“We’re currently investigating whether demolition is even an option, but the alternatives are similar in terms of costs and scheduling. However, demolition is by far the better option from the perspective of the port’s general layout,” says Hellström.

Port tunnel
A port tunnel will be required from the West Harbour to Länsiväylä.

K8’s technical building systems were not really upgraded during the surface renovations that were carried out recently. A major renovation of the terminal building was scheduled for the late 2020s, which would have meant moving into temporary premises. Hellström says that new construction can be scheduled to avoid the need for temporary premises.

“When Tallinn traffic is transferred to the West Harbour, traffic volumes will decrease in Katajanokka. We can build the necessary facilities for Stockholm traffic on the Market Square side of the existing terminal, and these would constitute the first phase of the new terminal. It would then be possible to demolish the existing terminal and implement the second phase, which would enable Silja’s ships to transfer from the South Harbour to Katajanokka.”

The main drawback with renovating K8 is the need for temporary premises. That option would require temporary premises for Stockholm-bound traffic for about 18 months.

South Harbour will be home to cruise traffic

The South Harbour is preparing to handle traffic to St Petersburg during the mid-2020s, while a replacement is being built for West Harbour Terminal 1. The red-brick Makasiini Terminal will be demolished and replaced by temporary premises for St Petersburg ships.

“It’s estimated that traffic to St Petersburg will operate out of the South Harbour in 2023–2026, and will return to the West Harbour once the new facilities have been completed,” says Hellström.

In line with the development programme, the Port of Helsinki will stop using all of the buildings in the South Harbour, including the yellow-brick Olympia Terminal and Satamatalo. As they are protected buildings, they will be repurposed.

“The South Harbour will retain berths for international cruise traffic – the kind that has currently been located on the Pakkahuone Quay. There’s also the option to develop express traffic on the Makasiini Quay. This would enable traffic that benefits from connecting city centre to city centre. One thing that all the remaining traffic will have in common is that none of the ships that dock there will be transporting any vehicles.”

Port tunnel illustration

Cruise ships will therefore have no need of such extensive terminal facilities, as people generally board cruise ships directly from the quay itself. Due to the size of the Kustaanmiekka Strait, the South Harbour can only take ships of up to 230 metres, that is, about the size of Silja Line’s Swedish ferries. Larger vessels can be accommodated in Hernesaari, where three out of the four berths serve large cruise ships. Only one berth for cruise ships would possibly remain in Katajanokka.

Joint preparations going well

From the City’s point of view, the meat of the whole arrangement – in addition to developing the port – is that hectares of land will be freed up for other use in the vicinity of the Market Square. The City is currently running the first phase of its Makasiiniranta idea and concept competition. The aim is to build a new Architecture and Design Museum in the South Harbour in five years’ time. Most of the new construction would be located halfway between the existing terminal buildings and the Market Square.

Pekka Hellström says that joint planning with the City has been going well.

“I have to say that, after the City Council’s decision in principle, we’ve all been working towards the same goals. And that’s exactly how it should be – that we get down to work once the Council has made its decision. These joint preparations, which involve dozens of people, have been successfully set in motion. It will soon be time for the Port to make some big decisions on the development programme as a whole.”