Ship travel and freight traffic in Helsinki picks up despite Ukraine crisis

(Courtesy of Port of Helsinki)

Boat trips in Helsinki have started to recover from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The war in Ukraine has not yet significantly slowed traffic through Helsinki, and freight traffic between January and March was busier than the previous year.

Internal border control of traffic between Finland and Schengen countries ended at the end of January 2022, and overseas boat travel is starting to show signs of recovery.

Liner traffic at the Port of Helsinki counted just over a million passengers between January and March. This represents a huge 171% increase over the same period the previous year, as at the start of 2021 travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic were still strict.

The sea route between Helsinki and Tallinn was the busiest from January to March, with 839,000 passengers. The Stockholm route had 150,000 passengers.

Total freight traffic increases

Freight traffic through the Port of Helsinki has been intense throughout the pandemic period. From January to March, total freight traffic amounted to 3.6 million tonnes, 4.8% more than the same period of the previous year. Of this volume, 1.7 million tonnes were imported (+7.2%) and 1.9 million tonnes exported (+1.6%).

Unitized cargo traffic* amounted to 3.1 million tonnes (+4.5%). The proportion of goods transported on trailers continues to increase. Measured in tonnes, container traffic decreased by 7.2% compared to the previous year, while rubber wheel traffic** increased by 10.5%.

War in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia affecting port operations

The proportion of Russian traffic at the port of Helsinki has been low, due to which the immediate effects of the war and the sanctions imposed on cargo traffic have not been as great as at many other ports. Ships passing through the port of Helsinki from Russia were mostly cargo ships loaded with coal, but these deliveries are now about to end. Appropriate transit loads have been few and far between.

Increasing transportation costs due to war, challenges in freight traffic delivery chains, and the effects of war on general economic developments present challenges to the operating environment. The recovery of international tourism in the Baltic Sea as the pandemic subsides could also slow down.

People fleeing the war in Ukraine also arrive in Finland through the port of Helsinki. The port company assists the authorities in various systems: control of passenger flows, use of space in the terminals and information for refugees. The Port of Helsinki has also provided facilities for a temporary reception point for asylum seekers in West Harbour.

The Port of Helsinki sees the sanctions imposed against Russia as necessary and calls for unified practices within the EU in their execution. The Port of Helsinki complies with EU and state decisions regarding Russian-related flows of goods and Russian-owned businesses and vessels.

Most of the goods transported through the port of Helsinki are unitized goods for Finland’s foreign trade, ie goods transported in containers, trucks and trailers.

(**) Rubber wheels traffic = goods transported in trucks and trailers.

Sea News, April 15

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