31 / 01 / 2022

Chairman’s greeting – Towards even stronger cooperation

Joakim Strand's greeting.

The pandemic maintained its iron grip over us and hampered cross-border cooperation even in 2021. Nonetheless, we have several reasons for joy to look back on as well as tools for the future. 

Our long-awaited new ferry, Aurora Botnia, arrived, was inaugurated, and started operating in August 2021. The ferry is specially customized for our region. It’s a great pleasure to present its onboard facilities, talk about its technology, and explain the significance of its construction for the whole Nordic industry – from planning to technology – in terms of employment and innovation. We can also proudly describe how our combined efforts brought about this result in order to secure collaboration in the Kvarken region and to strengthen the region’s business sector and operating conditions. At the same time, this reinforces the whole North and gives everyone in the region an opportunity to launch and develop long-term cooperation, whether within tourism, health care, education, knowledge exchange, leisure time, or hobbies. 

The ferry’s commission and delivery were timely given investments in the region. Collaboration regarding the ferry is a concrete example of our region’s will and ability to cooperate, while also being an eye-opener and a contributory cause for investments and big plans in the area. Even the major investment in Skellefteå, Sweden, has come a long way with the production of the first battery cells already in 2021. This, too, gives hope for the future here in the North. Companies linked to the battery industry are already operational in the Finnish cities of Karleby and Jakobstad. Several letters of intent have also been signed in Vaasa, Finland, and with our Norwegian cooperation partners. The Nordic Battery Belt receives growing attention, referring to our latitudes and industrial cluster in the Kvarken region. Collaboration is important also in this respect because the industries that are formed establish a value chain that benefits from coordination and our strong sense of community. 

Owing to major industrial investments, the time is right to prepare the region for electric aviation. In practice, the region already has electric machinery in the air; Skellefteå is a forerunner in this regard, soon to be followed by Seinäjoki in Finland. In addition, the region will most likely introduce new east-west flight routes by autumn 2022. These flights will be powered by biofuel, pending the arrival of larger electric aircraft on the market. The purpose is to help the region’s companies, identify the needs of the region’s inhabitants and business sector, and start reshaping travel patterns created by future aviation. In other words, the goal is to prepare the region for electric flights. The electric aviation project FAIR, run by the Kvarken Council and its cooperation partners, plays a significant role in this, aided by activities and interest from the Kvarken region’s various businesses. 

Mapping a fixed connection over the Kvarken Strait is now more topical than ever. Both freight and passenger transport needs will increase due to major industrial investments. Moreover, the Ukraine crisis has illuminated the connection’s geopolitical importance in a completely new light. Connections over the Kvarken are also vital in terms of Finland’s security of supply. 

Our region receives vitality through cooperation. If the pandemic was able to accelerate digital transformation, perhaps the Ukraine crisis will prompt the transition to energy self-sufficiency and sustainable fuels. The region is building a cluster with the capability to mine minerals and turn them into finished batteries – mostly self-reliantly. This means that it’s important to maintain and develop our east-west connections across the region as well as the opportunities to reach the region’s industries and ports e.g. on the Atlantic coast. 

The times we live in are challenging, but they also hold great opportunities to transform the Kvarken region into the most attractive, vital, and safe region for people to live and work in. 

Joakim Strand
Chairman of the Board, Kvarken Council EGTC