Automation may change ship clearance

Text: Kimmo Kallonen
Image: Timo Porthan

New technologies and the coronavirus pandemic have changed the clearance agent’s job over the decades, and automation continues to progress, says Roland Forssell.

Roland Forssell, the grand old man of Finnish ship clearance, retired in the autumn. 43 years in the industry, the last 21 of which were spent as CEO of C&C Port Agency Finland, have given him the perspective to evaluate developments in the industry.

The biggest upheavals during Forssell’s career have been related to communications technology.  He was himself involved in designing Portnet, a vessel traffic declaration service that is maintained by Traficom.

“The journey from telex tapes, via fax, to email and modern apps has led to major changes in the clearance agent’s job. Portnet must now be used for declarations and really is the place to find ‘absolutely everything’. It works well and makes it easier to do business with the authorities in particular. However, the basics remain the same. Ships come and go, and all of them have obligations and service needs, as well as a skipper who needs a representative and agent ashore,” says Forssell.

C&C Port Agency Finland handles assignments for about three thousand port calls per year and, for example, 240 crew changes. In addition to Helsinki, the company also has offices in Sköldvik (in Porvoo), Loviisa, Kotka, Turku, Naantali and Rauma. C&C Port Agency Finland’s net sales totalled EUR 53.6 million in 2022, yielding a result of EUR 703 thousand for the financial year.

The biggest upheavals were related to communication technology.

Forssell says that the letters C&C stand for the company’s two main areas of business: cargo and cruise. Although cruises may be the company’s most visible service, the volumes come from cargo.

“90 per cent of our net sales come from cargo ship services. Cruise ships account for the remaining ten per cent, but their needs are different. When there are a lot of passengers, medical treatment, ambulances and other specialised services may be required.”

The decline in cruise ship visits has also been reflected in ship clearance. However, Finland’s admission to NATO has led to an increase in naval visits, and warships also need the services of a clearance agent. However, Forssell says that the coronavirus has brought a significant change to the clearance agent’s work.

“Clearance agents were no longer invited onboard during the pandemic, except on rare occasions, and this has become a permanent practice. Fewer onboard visits means less stress, although it’s sometimes nice to talk to skippers on their ships.”

Crew changes are a special, and sometimes laborious, additional service. They usually involve taking care of visas and handling all of the official matters in general, for both the outgoing and incoming crew members.

A particular “hobby” of Forssell’s was running passenger traffic between Helsinki and St Petersburg, first for St Peter Line and later for the Italian company Moby SPL. “That also ended as a result of Russia’s war of aggression, and is unlikely to return for a long time,” says Roland Forssell.


  • Roland Forssell is a founding partner of C&C Port Agency Finland, and was the company’s CEO until 1 August 2023.
  • Forssell will continue as a member of the Board of Directors, a shareholder and an advisor to senior management. He plans to spend his retirement partly in Espoo, Finland and partly in Alicante, Spain.
  • C&C Port Agency’s new CEO is Tomi Rautio, who transferred to the company from the Steveco Group.