How Finnlines is making its ferries fit for the future

Emanuele Grimaldi discusses Finnlines’ vessel upgrades, environmental efforts and recent successes with Sandra Speares

How Finnlines is making its ferries fit for the future

This article was first published in Spring/Summer 2018 issue of the International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Grimaldi Group completed its purchase of Finland-based ferry operator Finnlines in 2016 and since then, the company has gone from strength to strength. According to president and chief executive Emanuele Grimaldi, there were many key moments that made 2017 the best year in Finnlines’ history.

“The January-September 2017 results improved by around 12% versus the same period in 2016, despite the rise in oil prices,” says Grimaldi, adding that the recovery of Finland’s economy is helping.

To maintain this growth, Finnlines has invested in its fleet in recent months. “Investment has two main focuses that are strictly inter-connected: one is to better serve our clients, and the other is to further upgrade the environmental performance of the fleet,” explains Grimaldi.

In spring 2016, Finnlines initiated an extensive refurbishment programme covering the passenger areas onboard its six Star Class ro-pax ferries. The vessels that operate on the FinnLink route between Kapellskär, Sweden and Naantali, Finland were all upgraded before the start of the summer 2016 season, while those on the HansaLink between Helsinki, Finland and Travemünde, Germany were upgraded in two phases. All received positive customer feedback in 2017.

“The first phase was completed by mid-summer 2016 and the second more extensive phase started in September and included the refurbishment of shops, cafeterias and restaurants,” Grimaldi says. “All passenger service area improvements were completed during the fourth quarter 2016. To better serve our customers, the HansaLink Star Class vessels were renovated to reflect a mixture of ageless maritime style, modern and serene Scandinavian style and an industrial cargo look. We based our decision to proceed with our Star Class vessel facelifts on an analysis of our passengers’ feedback and satisfaction surveys. Based on feedback for the first six vessels, we decided to refurbish the last Star vessel, which will join the FinnLink line in mid-2018.”

Vessel upgrades are also taking place on Finnlines’ four Breeze Class ro-ro ferries – Finnsky, Finnsun, Finntide and Finnwave – at Remontowa’s shipyard in Gdansk, Poland. All four vessels will be ‘jumboised’ (extended by inserting a new mid-section between the bow and stern) by 30 metres when the project is completed in May 2018.

“As an efficient operator, Finnlines has deployed bigger vessels in both the ro-pax and ro-ro segments, creating economies of scale and sharply reducing emissions per ton transported,” explains Grimaldi. “This can be done by ordering new vessels or jumboising the existing ones, so we chose to do the latter for the young Breeze Class vessels. Dry dock works started in September 2017 and the first lengthened ferry returned to service on the Uusikaupunki/Turku-Travemünde route at the end of November 2017. The second ferry is already in dry dock.”

Not only will lengthening the four vessels equate to a 30% capacity increase so each one can carry 4,000 lane-metres of rolling cargo, but it will also considerably reduce the energy consumption per transported unit.

“Finnlines’ customers will benefit from more environmentally friendly and sustainable services,” says Grimaldi. “We place great emphasis on environmental and safety matters and these investments are just another milestone in a long series of investment in sustainable growth. The ship lengthening project came right after a €100 million (US$125 million) Environmental Technology Investment Programme, which was launched three years ago to reduce carbon dioxide and other polluting emissions. Thanks to this initiative, Finnlines reduced its sulphur emissions by over 90%.”

According to Grimaldi, environmental sustainability will remain a key priority for Finnlines long into the future.

“Shipping moves around 90% of world commerce, but accounts for only around 2% of total carbon dioxide emissions – the numbers alone show how environmentally friendly the sector is,” says Grimaldi. “However, shipping is a responsible sector, so it’s committed to doing more. By 2050, the International Chamber of Shipping aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions per ton by 50%, compared to 2008 levels. This is a courageous target given the available technology, but it’s set to be met, and perhaps even exceeded. This gives an idea of how deep the global focus is today on environmental sustainability in the maritime sector. The environmental performance of vessels will determine which players will survive, and which will thrive, in tomorrow’s markets.”

Grimaldi has several other initiatives in place to ensure Finnlines continues to meet evolving customer and environmental demand, while remaining competitive. The main one is that the company will expand the fleet in response to growing volumes and continued profitability.

“In 2013, Finnlines sold Europalink to Grimaldi Group because of insufficient volumes in the Baltic after growth forecasts were revised downwards following the 2008 crisis,” says Grimaldi. “Since then, volume trends have reversed and we’re happy that the Europalink will be rejoining Finnlines in early 2018 on the Germany-Sweden trade route. This unit is the fifth of a series of five vessels launched about 10 years ago by Finnlines, and is among the biggest and more efficient ro-pax in the Baltic.”

Slotting the vessel back into the Finnlines rotation will also trigger reshuffling elsewhere in the network. “Finnswan will be redeployed on routes between Finland and Sweden, where customers have invited us to increase capacity,” comments Grimaldi. “We’ll increase capacity and transportation quality for our customers.”

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16 July 2018

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