The shortest sea route between Finland and Sweden is located between the cities of Vaasa and Umeå. Ever since the two countries joined the EU and tax-free travel ended, the question of how to get a working connection between the two towns has been considered. Today, there is already an advanced plan to build a new and innovative LNG-powered ferry that would operate between the two cities.
“It’s not only a question of transport; it’s about connecting two fast growing regions that could prosper even more as a result of improved connections,” explains Director Mathias Lindström of the Kvarken Council.
The new, environmentally friendly ferry would be like a floating bridge and an important element for the infrastructure of the companies operating in the region.
At the moment, an old but functional ferry operates between Vaasa and Umeå. A new and more practical one would improve the situation considerably.
“The new ferry can be designed to meet the exact needs of both the passengers and the cargo. An open cargo deck is among the plans for the new ferry, which would enable transportation of special goods,” says Lindström.
At the moment many goods are transported by road the long way around the Gulf of Bothnia. This obviously is not good from the environmental point of view.
The new ferry would also allow more daily trips and shorten the travel time. In addition, it would be more reliable during the icy winter weather conditions.
Cooperation with Wärtsilä has already resulted in initial designs on what the ferry would look like. An underlining idea is that the ferry exhibits the energy know-how in the Vaasa region as well as acts as a showcase for new innovations.
The ferry is going to have very low emission levels as it will run on liquid natural gas (LNG) combined with batteries. This will make the new ferry powerful enough to do most of its own ice breaking, which is especially important considering that this is the northernmost all-year-round ferry route in the word.
The ferry and the infrastructure it requires on land is going to cost approximately 150 million euros. The EU, Sweden and Finland will each need to come up with 30 per cent of the sum and Vaasa and Umeå together with private investors need to bring in the rest. The implementation of the project now depends on the financial arrangements.
“Of course this is a lot of money, but it should not be viewed only as a cost. Most of all it is an investment in the future, one which will pay itself back to society.”
According to Mathias Lindström the effect on national economies could be considerable. The ferry would bring the job markets on both sides of Kvarken closer, which would cut down the costs caused by unemployment. Benefits can also be gained by finding cooperation opportunities in healthcare, research and tourism.
In addition, there will be good opportunities to increase the amounts of cargo. ”The new ferry could open whole new transport routes in northern Europe and alleviate the pressure on the overburdened cargo routes in the northern parts of Europe,” says Lindström.
The new Kvarken ferry is green
- Will be very energy efficient and include many technical innovations.
- Is a hybrid, meaning that it can use stored electricity both for sailing and for other needs aboard.
- Batteries enables the use of solar power. The batteries can also be charged using a grid connection in the harbour or by using the ferry engines while sailing.
- Can cope with breaking the ice on its own in most conditions.
- Estimated to cost 150 million euro and be ready for use in 2018-2020.
- Planned to be financed by the EU, the states of Finland and Sweden, the cities of Umeå and Vaasa, as well as private investors.