Helsinki targets families and has plans for OPS

Helsinki, the South Harbour (Courtesy Port of Helsinki Ltd - Mikael Kaplar, Studio Point, 2015)Cruise call numbers may have been decreasing in Helsinki and neighbouring Baltic ports since Russia invaded Ukraine but Kaj Takolander, vp passenger services Port of Helsinki, has spotted an opportunity for the family market.

“When St Petersburg was on the itineraries, all the shore excursions were built around couples and adults as it isn’t really a family destination. Cruiselines are looking for new market segments in 2025. Countries in the eastern Baltic have stable democracies, a nice climate in the summer and family attractions in all the ports. All the Nordic countries are inside the Schengen and hence passengers don’t need visas to go ashore independently,” he says.

Takolander also points out how successful TUI Cruises is in the Baltic with its family-friendly cruises but he adds: “Destinations need to be quite proactive and promote family-ready options. It is a question of meeting the cruiselines’ needs.”

When it comes to OPS, the port has a plan to provide connections for cruiseships, despite the major expense of bringing it from the nearest distribution centre. “Because it is a big infrastructure change, we will have to phase it in with other building works. We hope to be able to connect large cruiseships between 2027 and 2030 depending on these city construction works.”

The energy will come from a mixture of solar, wind, wave and nuclear. At present Finland imports about 18.5% of its total energy needs, but with a new nuclear plant being commissioned this year, the country will become self-sufficient. The majority of power is nuclear (27.6%), hydro (19.3%), biomass (12.4%) and wind (9.6%%) while natural gas, coal and oil account for only 8.7%.

The port already has four OPS connections for ferries which are in daily use, so it has plenty of experience to call on. Ideally there will be three connections for cruiseships but Takolander points out that the high cost of installation means that the port “would need long-term commitment from the cruiselines, even though one company does not need to commit to all of it”. The hope is to get some funding from the EU.

Cooperation and networking with associations, such as Cruise Lines International Association, local stakeholders, tour operators etc, are key to finding solutions whereby ports build on their strengths. “All ports cannot invest in everything so cooperation with others will mean they don’t die even if the big ships don’t call and they cannot install OPS etc. What is comforting is that cruiselines are investing and seeing a growing market in holiday makers, families and also in the ultra luxury and expedition sectors.”

While call numbers in Helsinki have dropped from more than 300 in 2019 to 164 in 2022 and 94 in 2023, the situation is looking better for the future. Takolander concludes: “At last we seem to be on a growth pattern. Both for 2024 and 2025, we are expecting more calls. There is a clear trend that the lines are looking for more segments for the Baltics.”

(Port of Helsinki, Cruise Europe)