Port of Helsinki
10.12.2018 //
Text:
Kari Martiala
//
Pictures:
Kari Martiala & Containerships

Vuosaari Harbour turns 10: The harbour shows the state of the economy

The construction of Vuosaari Harbour was on the drawing board 20 years ago. The first stone was laid in 2003, and the harbour was opened on 24 November 2008. Operators have continued to use the harbour throughout the fluctuating economic climate. 

In a short time, life at Vuosaari Harbour has changed substantially. The vision of the size of ships that would come to Vuosaari is now quite different from the view when the harbour was completed. Ships have grown in size more quickly than anyone could have expected at the outset. 

“Twenty years ago, the only vehicles that travelled between Helsinki and Tallinn were a few lorries and all of the traffic heading for Central Europe via Germany. Now goods are being sent via the Baltic countries to destinations as far away as northern Italy. At peak times, ships depart for Tallinn as frequently as once an hour, but there is only one ship a day to Travemünde. The frequency is what makes Tallinn so popular,” says Jukka Kallio, Vice President of Cargo.

The harbour’s development and future

“Strategic measures should reflect what will happen in the future. We need to take measures to address these needs and develop our operations and services.” 

Vuosaari has plenty of capacity and, in the future, efficiency will be boosted by automation and digitalisation. These will enable the harbour area to be used more efficiently. The turnaround rate and the correct timing of actions are essential for the harbour. 

“In the future, various apps will ensure that when a container is lifted off a ship, there is a lorry waiting to take it out of the harbour area straight away. Using an app, the driver will be able to track the movements of the container and will know when to drive to the harbour to collect it. This is the direction we are heading in and, if everyone gets on board, there will be no containers waiting around at the harbour,” Kallio says.

“In terms of the future, it is important to know what we need to do. Are we going to build more areas or invest in new container cranes to enable things such as stacking several containers on top of each other?” 

The annual container traffic capacity of the harbour area has been calculated at 1,000,000 containers but, this year there will only be 510,000. There is enough capacity. The capacity will only run out if the containers are left lying around for a long time. 

Cargo volumes unchanged

Finnish Customs’ statistics on the value of cargo imports and exports – a good barometer of the Finnish economy – are only published retrospectively. At Vuosaari Harbour, the economic climate can be gauged much earlier. 

“We endured a sharp downturn during the financial crisis. Since then, we have been treading water. When we began operating, there were signs of a rapid recovery, but it didn’t last long. We are now back at the same cargo volumes as around the time when Vuosaari was opened. This year has been the best in the harbour’s short history, but we are only at the same level as in 2008,” Kallio says.

Vuosaari underwent rapid growth last year. Metsä Group completed construction of a factory in Äänekoski in August last year and began making shipments via Vuosaari in 2017, giving the end of the year a final boost. 

“Based on the figures for July, August and September this year, the growth has stopped. Hauliers and harbour operators are also saying the same thing,” Kallio says. 

Largest change since the opening

The same companies have operated in Vuosaari since the very beginning. The only newcomer is Rauanheimo, which handles Metsä Group’s terminal operations and loading of breakbulk ships. Metsä Group is the largest single party to arrive at Vuosaari Harbour since it was constructed. 

“Metsä Group’s terminal covers an area of seven hectares, and the hall has a surface area of almost 30,000 square metres. We moved certain functions elsewhere to make room for it, including gate operations and part of the storage space for empty containers. Similarly, the infrastructure beneath the hall was moved elsewhere and we built 600–700 metres of new train track next to the hall,” Kallio says.

Preparations are being made to lengthen certain piers to accommodate new ships, as the size of container ships is increasing and Finnlines will begin using wider ships. 

“Longer ships already fit into the harbour now, but new vessels are both longer and wider. We will need to widen the ramp locations in a few places.”

According to Kallio, one of the largest future projects will be to deepen the fairway leading to the harbour. 

“We have already received a water permit and we are now waiting for the processing of appeals to be concluded. The problem with the fairway project is that the Finnish state wants us to pay for half of their fairway. That is fine by us if all harbours are treated consistently and all other harbours pay a share of the costs of fairway projects.”