Pandemic struck seafaring

Finnlinesin Finmaid-alus Vuosaaren sataman laiturissa.

The COVID-19 pandemic, border closures and traffic disruptions are having a significant impact on seafaring, shipping companies and the logistics sector. Even though Finland’s economic downturn has been among the smallest in Europe, the future outlook is uncertain.

Labour market disruptions at the beginning of 2020 affected cargo traffic volumes. Passenger traffic, on the other hand, had good prospects for growth. At the end of February, the first signs of the effects of the COVID-19 began to appear, and in March, WHO declared it a global pandemic. Travel restrictions were also introduced in Finland and ship travel practically stopped. In the summer,  travelling returned to a reasonable level, but the autumn brought the second wave of the virus and re-tightened travel restrictions.

The National Emergency Supply Agency supported RoPax traffic, in particular, to secure the cargo transports necessary for Finland’s security of supply and business sector. Nevertheless, the situation is difficult for many shipping companies whose business is based on combining cargo and passenger traffic.

Recovery is likely to begin in 2021

COVID-19 vaccinations are the most decisive factor in halting the economic downturn in 2021. If the vaccinations go well, they could stimulate the Finnish economy as early as the summer, giving the economy a chance to start recovering.

The decisive factor for the European economy as a whole is whether the EU’s recovery fund succeeds in supporting economic growth in Europe. In the global economy, the transfer of power in the United States is likely to bring stability to the operating environment.

There is still a long way to go with COVID-19, and the tourism industry has a need for longer-term and consistent guidance on how to address travel needs while keeping health and safety above all else.

Green innovations are changing seafaring

With the progress of the climate and carbon neutrality goals of states and companies, massive investments in green innovations are also to be expected in the logistics and maritime industries.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has decided on the cuts to maritime transport emissions: carbon dioxide emissions from international maritime transport will be reduced by at least 40 per cent by 2030, and by 70 per cent by 2050 compared to 2008 levels. This goal will not be easy to reach, and in addition to increasing efficiency, it requires the introduction of several means, especially new technology, including renewable fuels, advanced batteries, hybrid vessels and onshore power supply, among other things.

Regulation also urges us towards meeting environmental goals. Sulfur emission limits in the Baltic Sea have been stricter than in the rest of the world since 2015, resulting in the reduction of sulfur emissions by as much as 90 per cent over the course of a few years. A nitrogen restriction also entered into force in the Baltic and North Sea region in 2021, but this only applies to new vessels.

The challenges posed by climate change are also changing the way ports operate. The Port of Helsinki has defined the carbon neutrality of its own operations and the decrease of the port area’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30% by 2035 as its most significant sustainability objectives.