Finland, and Helsinki, is one of the maritime hotspots of the world. We knew this but have felt that not many others did. The recently published The Leading Maritime Capitals of the World 2019 report has now nominated Helsinki as one of the top maritime cities in the world. What has changed in the past years? What shifted Helsinki from an unknown location into a recognized smart maritime hotspot?
Throughout history, Finland has been one of the world leaders in shipyard industry. If you have sailed on some of the world’s largest cruise ships or have had an ice breaker clearing the way for you, high chances are the vessels were built in Finland. In addition to the more traditional shipping, Finland has in the past couple of years become a recognized leader in smart maritime and marine technology.
The Leading Maritime Capitals of the World report gives insight “about which maritime capitals provide the best support, in terms of soft and hard infrastructure and world-class talent, to allow maritime businesses and people to connect and thrive”. We addressed Helsinki and Finland’s strongholds in our previous blog post, and the report validates our findings. While Helsinki doesn’t have the shipping volumes of the top ranked Singapore or Hamburg, the Finnish capital is strong in innovation, infrastructure, talent and efficient customs.
Tight ecosystem that grows innovations
New experiments and business development are cherished in Finland and Helsinki. The legislation is favorable, and the city and government are actively investing in programs boosting for example the development of autonomous solutions.
One of the key strengths of Helsinki is its locally connected ecosystem. City and government officials, top research institutions, innovative startups and pioneering corporations all work closely together to create new business opportunities. The startup scene in Finland is blooming, and producing also marine tech success stories like Iceye, Norsepower, KNL Networks, Fleetrange and NauticAi, to mention a few.
Finland is strong especially in autonomous systems. Examples of ecosystems, that promote innovation in autonomy are The One Sea and Research Alliance for Autonomous Systems (RAAS). The One Sea ecosystem is a strategic combination of top research, state-of-the-art information technology and business. Its project aims to create an environment suitable for autonomous ships by 2025. RAAS is a research and development environment for autonomous solutions and service development, where one key focus area is marine transport and port operations.
Results can already be seen as successful commercial autonomous shipping trials. One example is ABB’s and Kongsberg Maritime’s (former Rolls-Royce Commercial Marine) autonomous ships.
High quality infrastructure and digital customs easing business
The metropolitan area is a junction for logistics in Finland. The Helsinki region harbors’ traffic accounts for 50% of the total value of Finnish foreign trade transported by sea. City of Helsinki’s strategy to be the most functional city in the world can be experienced first-hand in port operations. World-class infrastructure enables easy transits for cargo and passengers alike.
Port operations are also digitalizing fast. Finnish customs is at the forefront of bringing the latest technological innovations to customs procedures. A major digitalization program is under way, and tests are being carried out to find if artificial intelligence can be of help to customers in clearing goods correctly.
All this is done with environmental responsibility in mind. The port of Helsinki sets an example for other ports in sustainability and environmental responsibility. In fact, the Port of Helsinki was voted as the Greenest port of the year in 2018.
Strong talent pool and high-quality educational system set the base for success
And let’s not forget Finland’s world-renowned educational system, that produces high quality tech professionals. Finland ranks as one of the top OECD country in education and is constantly being benchmarked by other countries.
The capital region has the largest pool of ICT and engineering skilled workforce and draws commuting potential across Finland. This is beneficial for maritime industry as well. In addition, for example in Aalto University, the top technical university in Finland, offers a master’s degree in Maritime Engineering.