31 / 08 / 2021

Kvarken traffic

The maiden voyage of Aurora Botnia in the autumn 2021 marked the culmination of more than a decade of intensive work. It was also a major milestone and a concrete result of a greatly successful and long-term feat of strength.

Traffic over the Kvarken is one of the Kvarken Council’s core issues. Throughout its existence and activities, the organization has endeavored to secure and develop connections within the Kvarken region.

The strait between Vaasa, Finland, and Umeå, Sweden, unites much more than just two neighbouring cities; the ferry connection across Kvarken is an important part of a transport route that stretches from Norway’s northernmost port cities in the west to Russia and the Baltic countries in the east. Maintaining and improving this route is important for companies operating along it and for the people living in the region. In addition to business activities, a viable connection across the Kvarken also benefits cross-border cooperation within culture, education, health care, and administration.

Arrival of Aurora Botnia to the Kvarken region

The new M/S Aurora Botnia vessel, operating between Vaasa and Umeå, was christened on Wednesday 25 August 2021. The ferry’s maiden voyage took place on 28 August. Aurora Botnia is an important element in the region’s increasingly stronger infrastructure and growing Nordic cooperation.

Brave decision-making and long-term thinking

Relieved voices could be heard among the laughter and applause at the ferry’s christening. The new ferry has demanded a great deal of effort and determined and hard work at various levels, e.g by several projects over many years before the realization of the ferry and by Kvarken Link, a company jointly owned by Umeå Kommunföretag AB and the City of Vaasa. This work has yielded results; the ferry is now here abd has ushered in a new era.

Hans Lindberg (S), Municipal Commissioner of Umeå Municipality and Board member of both Kvarken Link and Kvarken Council EGTC, was overjoyed to see the process come so far.

–It’s been a long journey, and it is victory in itself to be able to stand here today. Reaching this point was certainly never taken for granted because we had difficulty in finding actors who wanted to operate ferry traffic between Finland and Sweden.

–This prompted Umeå and Vaasa to jointly establish the company Kvarken Link and to begin raising extensive project financing for a new ferry. Politically speaking, it hasn’t been an easy road, and it has required brave decision-making and long-term thinking, Lindberg explains.

The ferry is characterized by reduced emissions and sustainable future development. It also promotes freight traffic in a better and more environmentally friendly way and simultaneously ties the regions and the countries of Finland, Sweden, and Norway even more closely together.

– This is absolutely crucial for business development, and it allows us to look to the future in analtogether new way. It also facilitates freight traffic and enables transports that strengthen the development of the east- west route, Lindberg adds.

Nordic cooperation leads to results

When Tomas Häyry, Mayor of the City of Vaasa and Chairman of Kvarken Link, together with his wife Marja-Riitta Häyry had the honour of christening Aurora Botnia, Häyry strongly emphasized the vision shared by Vaasa and Umeå; to invest in a sustainable infrastructure and to create cross-border cooperation at different levels:

– The solutions that Aurora Botnia stands for environmentally are the result of excellent cooperation between various actors. The ferry also provides a continuous platform for future research.

Joakim Strand (SFP), Member of Parliament and Chairman of Vaasa City Council and Kvarken Council EGTC, praises the drive and ambition that have permeated the whole process:

– The world needs more Nordic cooperation and an ambitious attitude to technology to fight climate change.

Rickard Carstedt from Region Västerbotten also recognizes the enormous importance of improved and renewed ferry traffic for Västerbotten:

– This is a fantastic day for the region! We’re witnessing the birth of many new opportunities. Above all, we see a new labour market emerging between the countries, and we’re able to educate and move between the countries in completely new ways. I also see opportunities in battery material investments, in which we as a region take our place in the Nordic battery belt.

New era of Nordic cooperation

Aurora Botnia’s christening was not only a celebration of the new ferry; the fanfare at the port also praised the strong and growing Nordic cooperation in which Aurora Botnia forms an important element in an even stronger infrastructure and a more close-knit region. Consequently, the ferry’s maiden voyage on Saturday 28 August can be seen as ushering in a new era of Nordic cooperation.

Maiden voyage and first arrival to Umeå

On Saturday morning 28 August 2021, Aurora Botnia raised anchor in Vaasa, Finland, and soon approached the port in Holmsund, Sweden, for the first time. The day couldn’t have been more perfect when the world’s currently most environmentally friendly ferry was welcomed; a clear blue sky, a warm breeze, pleasure craft on the water, and many expectant travellers.

The arrival of Aurora Botnia was a historic event and a milestone for both Vaasa and Umeå – a concrete result of thousands of hours of hard work. Aurora Botnia also helps us form stronger interpersonal bonds between our countries.

– This is the beginning of something new. The ferry creates conditions for even deeper collaboration, aiming at a common labour market between our countries. It’s important for all investments that currently take place in the region and also for creating closer cooperation within research, education, and health care, explains Joakim Strand (SFP) in connection to the ferry’s maiden arrival to the port of Umeå.

M/S Aurora Botnia

M/S Aurora Botnia is a custom-made vessel for the route Umeå–Vaasa. It is equipped with cutting-edge environmental technology and runs on electricity and renewable fuels. The ferry’s interior design in its public spaces and cabins is based on recycled materials. For instance, table-tops and counters are manufactured from recycled plastics, and cabin carpets are largely made of fibers from old fishing nets. M/S Aurora Botnia is not just a business affair for Vaasa and Umeå; the vessel links the ports together and ties them to the Norwegian Atlantic coast, with routes to the Baltic countries, Russia, India, and Japan. Therefore, it is of importance for the whole Kvarken region and the Nordic countries.

Revised text originally published by Umeå Municipality.