Kvarken traffic anniversary seminar culminated in presentation of ferry plans
The 70th anniversary of the Kvarken traffic and the fifth anniversary of the NLC Ferry shipping company, also known as Wasaline, was celebrated with a seminar onboard M/S Wasa Express on 13 September 2018. The seminar theme was the past, present and future prospects of the Kvarken ferry connection.
The Managing Director at Wasaline Peter Ståhlberg said in his morning welcome words that the car deck was full just like it was earlier during the week. The amount of freight transported onboard M/S Wasa Express has grown gradually since the end of the 1940s, when the route was operated by Korsholm III, the first car ferry in Finland.
A recurrent theme for the day’s presentations was cooperation and working together. The seminar was moderated by Riitta Björkenheim, Logistics Expert at Vaasa Region Development Company VASEK. She said that cooperation means concrete measures in which we take each others’ similarities and differences into account.
Hans Frantz, the chairman of the board of the Vaasa Hospital District, presented forms of cross-border cooperation in specialized care. He told that a letter of intent on moving patients across Kvarken to the Umeå University Hospital had been signed earlier but it has been difficult to carry it out in practice.
“A new contract text has been written and it will be dealth with in the hospital district in October. A pilot study on sending potential patients to Umeå has been carried out and the results are very positive.”
Professor Lars Westin from the Cerum unit at the Umeå University regretted that there are several different national models of transport systems that make it difficult to discuss development of cross-border infrastructure. Westin presented models for assessing economic impacts of logistics investments:
“When investing on cross-border infrastructure, we need to decide who finances the most and what are the pros of the investment on both travel and transport expenses as well as environmental impacts and effects on traffic safety.”
Westin demanded Nordic traffic concepts for dealing with cross-border investments nationally. Scenarios created by researchers at Cerum and the Vaasa University in the BA3NET project were much discussed. According to the scenarios, populations on both sides of the Kvarken would need to increase greatly in order for the regions to be considered among the TOP 5 transport clusters.
Joakim Strand and Hans Lindberg
The afternoon part of the seminar was opened by the chairman of the Umeå municipal council Hans Lindberg and the chairman of the Vaasa city council, MP Joakim Strand. Lindberg was glad about the large investments made in the region such as building Wärtsilä Innovation Center in Vaskiluoto and the Komatsu new factory in Umeå.
Ståhlberg gave an overview of the history of the Kvarken traffic. He also reflected on the present state and future:
“Wasaline’s ferry M/S Wasa Express started trafficking here in 2013 and it is a fantastic ferry but almost 40 years old soon. Operative costs are large due to remarkable fuel costs. This summer, the ferry had its millionth passenger and more than 225,000 cars have been transported, which on an annual basis exceeds the volumes of Viking Line transporting with two ferries from Helsinki to Stockholm”, Ståhlberg listed and continued:
“Next year we are going to add daily departures and in that way we can support the tourism in our regions, especially hotels and tourist destinations. What we are good at, that’s what we do best”, Ståhlberg concluded and used the opportunity to thank the staff and crew at Wasaline.
The former regional mayor Olav Jern remembered the end of the 1990s in his commentary. That is when tax free sales ended in the Kvarken:
“At first, no one understood the relevance for the traffic. At a later point the Finnish and Swedish governments started supporting the ferry connection and managed to keep it going even though the years were difficult.”
After July 1999 the passenger numbers in Kvarken dropped with 93 % and the freight with 27 %.
Lennart Holmlund and Riitta Björkenheim
The chairman of the Kvarken Council Lennart Holmlund thanked Rabbe Grönlund who founded the RG Line.
“Without his contribution for the Kvarken traffic and RG Line as a part of traffic history, we would not be here discussing cooperation. “
Logistics Expert Anna Måtts-Fransén from VASEK presented how the Kvarken area can, with the help of existing traffic corridors, be connected with the world. She pointed out that we cannot solely concentrate on our region too much as we also need to see the problems in other traffic corridors that serve the Kvarken area as our problems.
“Better connections help make our region both wealthier and healthier!” Måtts-Fransén said.
Director of Kvarken Council Mathias Lindström informed of the historical decision made in May: the Kvarken Council will apply for EGTC (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation) Status. Changing the status from a registered association to EGTC will strentghen the cross-border responsibility of Kvarken Council and equip it with stronger muscles to pursue regionally important questions in the EU.
Umeå Kommunföretag Managing Director Mikael Öhlund and the mayor of the City of Vaasa Tomas Häyry who shed light on the Kvarken traffic connection and cooperation were both satisfied with developments in the traffic and look forward to the construction of the new ferry.
NLC Ferry is a profitable company so we do not need be worried of the future investment, Öhlund said.
“The shipping company has brought along significant regional effects escpecially in tourism but thanks to well-functioning infrastructure we have also received large investments in the area, Wärtsilä and Komatsu being the latest. This ferry infrastructure ties the area together and as a larger area it also has more power in Brussels”, Häyry pointed out.
Christer Schoug, Peter Ståhlberg and Bertil Hammarstedt
The high point of the afternoon part of the seminar was the presentation of financing models and technical details of the new ferry. BoCS Consulting AB Project Coordinator Christer Schoug presented the plans for the ferry. The aim is to use the space effectively and to create comfortable and peaceful rooms and space with a touch of Nordic design.
Four shipyards have given preliminary offers on constructing the ferry. Final offers are expected to be handed in latest end of October. The decision on which shipyard will construct the ferry will be done in December.
The seminar was organized by: Interreg/Botnia-Atlantica funded project Midway Alignment Botnia Atlantica II (MABA II) and the Kvarken Council together with the City of Vaasa, the municipality of Umeå and Wasaline.
Text: Johanna Hietikko-Koljonen, Vaasa Region Development Company VASEK
Photos: Kvarken Council and Kudos/Kvarken Link AB