- the most environmentally friendly ROPAX ferry in the world.
- accommodates 800 passengers and has a freight capacity of 1,500 lane meters.
- will be operated by Wasaline.
- operational in spring 2021. Wasaline operational in spring 2021.
- Commissioned by Kvarken Link Ltd, which is owned by Umeå Kommunföretag AB in Sweden and the city of Vaasa in Finland. Read more about the construction project
A propelling partnership and committed members
The Kvarken Council brings together a highly propelling partnership and committed members. Together we can achieve great results. As one example of this, the Kvarken Council has functioned as lead partner in projects that have formed the foundation for the procurement of a new, tailored, and environmentally friendly ferry for the region for the purpose of maintaining and developing cross-border cooperation. The new Aurora Botnia ferry is co-owned by two cities in two different countries: Vaasa in Finland and Umeå in Sweden. Another example of a result of the Kvarken Council’s partnership is the ongoing regional electric aviation project FAIR, which welds together the whole region.
Aurora Botnia is the result of a long-standing, enormous cross-border effort
The Aurora Botnia ferry, which will begin operating in the Kvarken as of August 2021, is the result of a long-standing, enormous cross-border effort. After the accession of Finland and Sweden to the European Union in 1995, the region’s vital ferry connection was left severely shaken. Tax-free shopping was abolished, the profitability of operating in the Kvarken crashed, and the passengers turned their back on the connection due to price hikes and changing operators and timetables. This led to RG-Line shipping company’s bankruptcy in late 2011. The region was in danger of completely losing its vital connection
An unlucky bankruptcy and a lucky coincidence
Already before the shipping company’s bankruptcy, the Kvarken Council had raised visibility on the connection’s significance for all cross-border cooperation in the Kvarken region and managed to include a mention of the issue in the Finnish Government Programme during Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen’s Government. A lucky coincidence in connection to the unlucky bankruptcy was that the former Finnish Minister of Transport, Merja Kyllönen, was visiting the city of Vaasa in Finland on the same day that the bankruptcy was announced, and she immediately appointed a working group to investigate the safeguarding of the connection under the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications. The working group consisted of both Finnish and Swedish members. This speedy action was possible because the work to safeguard the connection was already included in Prime Minister Katainen’s Government Programme.
An important report guaranteed ferry traffic in the Kvarken
The working group’s necessary investigations in the region were funded via the Kvarken Council and the INTERREG programme, and the end result was a report called “Merenkurkun laivaliikenteen turvaamista koskevan strategian valmistelu” (inofficial translation: “Preparing A Strategy in Order to Safeguard Ferry Traffic Across the Kvarken”). The following was suggested in the report:
“On the basis of available surveys and reports, the working group proposes that ferry traffic between Vaasa and Umeå as well as its development should be seen as a part of a larger whole, i.e. the transport infrastructure formed by the E12 route. The working group proposes that part of this transport infrastructure shall be an environmentally friendly ice-going vessel that satisfies the passengers’ requirements. According to the working group, it should be the long-term target to acquire a new vessel which is specifically planned for the traffic in the Kvarken route. In order to finance the investment, the working group proposes that the cities of Vaasa and Umeå as well as the actors in the Kvarken area cooperate in applying for EU grants/subsidies.
The working group also proposes that in preparing the application, the possibility of Sweden and Finland to support the project and to prepare for national co-financing shall be examined. Further, the working group proposes that the regional actors commit themselves to taking part in the investment and arranging the traffic and covering the cost of the operation so that the present public transport subsidy can be abolished.”
Based on this report, the work to accomplish all this was started – and the end result will be ready in August 2021. The solution is exactly in accordance with the report’s proposals, with the exception that the Swedish Government does not co-finance the solution.
Hard cross-border work will be awarded with a maiden voyage in 2021
The Kvarken Council and its cooperation partners have determinedly striven to maintain and develop cross-border cooperation with the help of various projects. The Kvarken Council has functioned as lead partner in projects that have formed the foundation for the procurement of a new, tailored, and environmentally friendly ferry for the region for the purpose of maintaining and developing cross-border cooperation.
This work has been prioritized for the past decade, and it will finally be awarded with a maiden voyage in August 2021.
A big thank you to all who believed in our ability to solve the problem and who worked unwaveringly towards this goal. Thank you also to all financiers who enabled this work. Cooperation among other issues can continue thanks to this enormous effort.
Figure: Prerequisites for the east-west route and the cooperation organizations in the Kvarken region changed with the accession of Finland and Sweden to the European Union in 1995 and the abolition of tax-free shopping. Up to this, Föreningen Blå Vägen, the Kvarken Council, and MittSkandia had primarily focused on grassroots cohesion and cultural exchange. Traffic and infrastructure development became the common denominator for a long time to come although it was not included in the agenda during the initial programme period.
One step at a time with great success
We are proud to present the series of projects that have been created and carried out in the region in cooperation and that have led to e.g. the new ferry co-owned by the cities of Vaasa in Finland and Umeå in Sweden.
The financing instruments Interreg Botnia Atlantica, Interreg Baltic Sea Region, CEF, and NDPTL, for instance, have been essential in this work.