HaminaKotka, Finland, is western Europe’s easternmost cruise port
HaminaKotka first received cruise calls in 2017, having received EU funding to investigate the possibility of becoming a cruise destination a few years earlier.
After three years of a handful of calls, it was due to receive 28 in 2021 but Covid-19 prevented the Finnish port’s first big season. Despite the upheaval, this year saw 19 calls and approximately 10,000 passengers visiting HaminaKotka.
In 2011 the ports of Hamina and Kotka joined together with the shares owned 40%/60% respectively by each town. Being an important hub in the Baltic region, its ‘universal’ cargo business (18.1 million tonnes in 2019) has helped to weather the storm caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Cruise may account for only less than one percent of the total business but the management of Port of HaminaKotka, and the towns of Hamina and Kotka, are in favour of developing the cruise business together. This summer additional port reception facilities were built in Kotka and a small terminal constructed on the site of a disused warehouse.
In addition the town of Kotka is building a large events centre and university campus for 3,000 and a park boulevard with cafes and restaurants, which will be partly completed next summer and the remainder by summer 2024.
Cruiseships can call in three port areas: Kantasatama Kotka town centre which can take ships up to 220m in length and where the safe clearance depth is between 8.9 and 10.8m; Kotka Mussalo in the western part of the town which has a 500m long berth intended for cruise with a safe clearance depth of 11.5 to 13.7m; and Hamina which has a berth of 609m and safe clearance depth of 11.2-13.2m. The former is dedicated to cruiseships, the latter two also take cargo ships.
The distance between the two towns is 25km on land and 1.5 hours by sea. The same land programmes can be taken from both Kotka and Hamina.
This year the calls were split fairly evenly across the berths with 42% of passengers in Hamina and 58% in Kotka. Of these the majority were from the USA and Canada, followed by the UK and Germany. Petra Cranston, project manager cruise business Port of HaminaKotka, was delighted to see significant numbers arriving from the Middle and Far East also.
Passenger feedback was positive. “Everyone was happy. We had no complaints. We are such tiny towns that, wherever they go, they get personal service and an authentic feeling,” comments Cranston.
About 40% of passengers took tours and 60% went independently. Cranston pointed out that even though HaminaKotka is close to the Russian border, passengers were happy not to have cancelled their cruises and also took taxis and tours to discover more about the history between the two countries.
At present, the port is working with Tallinn and Helsinki on a joint marketing message to encourage cruiselines to sail between the three destinations. The 200nm sailing triangle could be interesting both for itinerary planners and yield management executives, enabling more time in the destination and slow steaming.
HaminaKotka can handle about 4,000 passengers a day. It also has a dedicated programme for the crew.
Helsinki and Lappeenranta airport are within 80 minutes of the port, which can handle smaller ships on turnaround but had inquiries for the larger ships prior to the war.
Passengers can enjoy in the Hamina and Kotka areas the local parks on Kotka island, visit the archipelago, marshland and forest, go hiking, river rafting and take in the local history and culture.
Next year 19 calls are booked to date.