Port Helsinki is a Baltic Sea cruise port and Finland's largest cargo port. The city is country's capital (since 1812) and also Europe's northernmost capital city, located on Gulf of Finland's shores. Russia (St Peterburg) is approx 300 km (185 mi) to the west. City's population is around 650,000 (metro over 1,45 million), ranking it Nordic countries' 3rd largest metro area - after Stockholm Sweden and Copenhagen Denmark.
In Greater Helsinki (metro) are headquartered 83 of Finland's 100 largest companies. City's tap water is supplied via Paijanne Water Tunnel, which by length (120 km / 75 mi) is ranked among world's longest rock tunnels. City's tap water is of such good quality, that is even sold (bottled) in other countries.
City's best-known tourist attractions are its numerous museums, including Finland's National Museum (haused in a medieval castle), City Museum, Helsinki University Museum, Finnish Museum of Natural History, Finnish National Gallery (houses 3 art museums), Design Museum (Finnish and international designs - industrial, fashion, graphics), Military Museum, Tram Museum. Ateneum Palace is among city's main historical buildings.
The city is served by the International Helsinki Airport in Vantaa - approx 17 km (11 mi) to the north. Helsinki-Malmi Airport serves mainly domestic flights and private airplanes. Hernesaari Heliport serves charter flights.
Port Helsinki is Europe's 2nd busiest passenger port - after Southampton England UK - handling around 11 million passengers (cruise and ferry) annually. In 2018, the seaport was ranked Europe's busiest in terms of passenger shipping volumes - handling in 2017 over 12,3 million passengers.
Vuosaari Harbour was opened in 2008. It handles only goods-shipping traffic for Greater Helsinki (metro region). This port section has 2 container terminals (West Harbour, Sornainen Harbour). The harbor covers a land area of 1,5 km2 (0,6 mi2) with additional 0,75 lm2 (0,3 mi2) business park adjacent to the harbor. City's "Ring 3" road network was extended and a new railway is now used for cargo transportation to and from Vuosaari Harbour.
West Harbour (Lansisatama, in Jatkasaari district) has 1 passenger and 1 cargo terminal. This port area includes Munkkisaari (cruise ships dedicated) pier. West Terminal (ferry terminal) serves mainly ferries to Estonia (Tallinn) and Russia (Petersburg). Most of the cruiseferries are operated by the companies ECKERO LINE and TALLINK-SILJA LINE (Estonian route) and St Peter Line (Russian route). Port's developments here included the building a residential complex for around 15,000 inhabitants. The land for this project is a former container traffic area (moved to Vuosaari). Helsinki Shipyard (in Hietalahti district) is adjacent to West Harbour but not considered part of the port.
Port's Olympia Terminal building (next to Port Authority company's headquarters) is listed as heritage site. Jatkasaari (part of Lansisatama and Kampinmalmi) is a new residential and office area developed at the site of port's ex-main container terminal (moved in 2008 to Vuosaari Harbour).
Cruise port's 2014 statistics showed a total of 240 ship calls and 408,900 passengers handled. In 2015 were handled 254 ship calls and 436,500 passengers. The most visited from Helsinki cruise port destinations are St Petersburg Russia, Gdynia-Gdansk Poland, Tallinn Estonia, Travemunde-Lubeck Germany, Stockholm Sweden and Warnemunde-Rostock (Germany).
In 2016, Port Helsinki handled 11,56 million ferry passengers (3,1% increase over 2015). Of those, 8,74 million (4%) were traveling between Helsinki and Tallinn (almost 76% of all) and 2,34 million (0,7%) traveled on cruiseferries on the Helsinki-Stockholm route. The number of cruise ship tourists visiting the port in 2016 was 408,900 (6.3% decrease over 2015). In 2017, the ferry passenger traffic on the Helsinki-Tallinn route was increased. The ferry traffic to Sweden (Stockholm), Russia (St Petersburg) and Germany (Travemunde) remained stable. The international cruise shipping traffic increased to nearly 0,5 million.
In 2017, the total ship passengers increased by 2,4% (over 2016). The number of liner passenger traffic grew by 1,8%, (up to 11,8 million). Of those, 9 million (+3,2%) crossed on the Helsinki-Tallinn route, and 2,3 million on the Helsinki-Stockholm route. For season 2017, the cruise port had scheduled 270 ship calls (handled 266 total) with over 478,000 passengers (16,8% increase over 2016). A special day was May 31, when here met 5 cruise vessels (AIDAmar, Le Soleal, MSC Magnifica, Norwegian Getaway, Ocean Dream) disembarking over 11,000 tourists in total.
Among seaport's main innovations implemented during its redevelopments in the last few years include:
- Buffer zones at Vuosaari Harbour protect its existing "Natura 2000" natural reserve areas. These are green parks that buffer Vuosaari's housing developments and harbour areas. A new golf course was also created there.
- New lighting scheme was developed and sound barriers were built. The sound wall is also the port's facade to the natural reserve. It reduces sound pollution from the harbor, integrates vegetation and also has a sightseen function.
- An efficient automatic vehicle check-in system was installed (for trucks and cars) with waiting areas constructed outside the urban area (some are in the buffer zones). The new system allows ferry cargo traffic to be handled with less waiting times and areas required.
In 2017, Port Helsinki achieved record-breaking results in international freight traffic, with handled total tonnage/throughput 14,3 million tons (14,3% increase). Of those, 7,3 million were imports (13,2% increase) and 6,9 million exports (14,6% increase). The freight volume shipped in large-sized units was 11,89 million tons (12,5% increase). The container ship traffic volume was 491,000 TEU-containers (8,8% increase). The rubber-wheel traffic was 587,000 units (11,1% increase). In 2017, the cruise port handled 266 ship calls and nearly 478,000 passengers. During calls, cruise tourists spend an average EUR 64 per day visit (totaling ~EUR 32 million in FY2017).
The port's container terminals are managed (under long-term concession) by APM Terminals (30,75%, part of Global Ports Holding - world's largest cruise port operator) and Delo Group (30,75%, Russia's biggest freight transportation and logistics company). These terminals are a joint venture of Global Ports (75%) and CMA Terminals Holding (25%, part of CMA CMG - the 3rd of the world's largest container shipping companies).
In September 2020, the old crane at Multi-Link Terminals Helsinki was replaced with a new STS (ship-to-shore gantry crane custom-designed by Konecranes) that measures 40 m (boom length), 31 m (height) and has lifting capacity 70 tonnes. Multi-Link Terminal is also served by a modern RMG (Rail Mounted Gantry crane) which expedites the vessel handling process and reduces operating costs (via reduced personnel and equipment required). The new RMG has capacity to handle boxships with 14 TEU wide decks. In October 2020, the existing Liebherr crane was upgraded to 26,5 m (height) and 32,5 m (boom length).
In October 2018, the seaports Helsinki and Tallinn, together with the ferry companies Tallink, Viking Line and Eckero Line, received EUR 21,4 million as EU funding for passenger terminal and infrastructure developments as part of a TWIN-PORT project with total budget EUR 71,2 million and scheduled completion by 2023. By this project, Port Helsinki's West Harbour will improve its transportation system to reduce congestion, noise and air pollution. At Port Tallinn's Old City Harbour will be installed auto-mooring and shoreside power systems. The ferry port will also construct sewerages (at all passenger ship quays) to expand its wastewater service. The ferry companies will retrofit their Ro-Pax ferries to be able to shut down their auxiliary engines while docked, resulting in quiet operations and zero pollution at berths.
In May 2019, the Finnish company Damen Shipyards Group established its office in Helsinki. The company entered the passenger shipbuilding market (RoPax/ferry and cruise vessels) with the purchase of Damen Shipyards Mangalia (joint venture between Damen and Romania's Government). In Romani are constructed and launched ships' hulls and superstructures then tugged to other European yards (in France, Netherlands, Poland, Finland) for final outfitting. Damen's engineering teams are in Rotterdam Holland and Gdansk Poland. The company "Damen Engineering Helsinki Oy Ltd" has ~30 employees. Damen's new office is intended to showcase company's products and services to both potential clients and local suppliers.
In June 2019, Elenger (2019-established brand/trademark/subsidiary of Eesti Gaas Group (Tallinn-headquartered Estonian natural gas company) started LNG bunkering in Port Helsinki. The first passenger ship bunkered by Elenger Finland was the cruiseferry Tallink Megastar (serving the route Helsinki-Tallinn). Ferry's truck-to-ship bunkering (by semi-trailers) is once a week (on Tuesdays) and takes approx 1 hour. Elenger delivers LNG (liquefied natural gas) to Helsinki from Novatek’s new LNG plant in Vysotsk (Russia). Eesti Gaas runs Estonia's largest gas supply network and also serves the markets in Finland and Lithuania through pipelines. The company also sells electricity.
This Finnish shipbuilding company "Arctech Helsinki Shipyard" was founded in 2011 as subsidiary of JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) - Russian state-owned company specializing in construction and repairs of icebreakers and other icebreaking vessels, including gas tankers, platform supply- and standby ships.
Arctech Helsinki Shipyard is located in Hietalahti (downtown Helsinki). The company was established as joint venture between STX Finland and USC Russia. Operations at Hietalahti Shipyard started in April 2011 In 2014, USC Russia purchased the STX Finland shares (from its parent company STX Europe) and became shipyard's sole owner.
In October 2018, USC announced that Hietalahti Shipyard would be sold to Algador Holdings Ltd. The sale was authorized by Russia's Government in April 2019. In May 2019, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard was sold to Algador Holdings Ltd - Russian company owned by Rishat Bagautdinov and Vladimir Kasyanenko (owners of Vodohod River Cruises). The company also owns Nevsky Shipyard LLC (1913-founded, located on Neva River in Schliesselburg - approx 40 km to the north of St Petersburg).
On May 20, 2019, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard was transferred to the newly-established company "Helsinki Shipyard Oy" that took over Hietalahti Shipyard's assets and operations. Arctech remained subsidiary of USC Russia and continued its operations in Russia (at Nevsky Shipyard). The deal included EUR 35 million plus the ownership of Nevsky Shipyard LLC.
The list of ships built by Helsinki Shipyard (Hietalahti) includes:
- icebreakers - Baltika (2014), Murmansk (2015), Polaris (2016)
- oil-gas platform supply vessels - Vitus Bering (2012), Aleksey Chirikov (2013), Gennadiy Nevelskoy (2017)
- standby vessels - Stepan Makarov (2017), Fedor Ushakov (2017), Yevgeny Primakov (2018)
- cruise ships - Vodohod TBN1 (2021 August), Vodohod TBN2 (2022 January)
Helsinki Shipyard has a covered dock with capacity to build Panamax-sized ships (able to pass through Panama Canal).
Helsinki cruise terminal
Helsinki cruise port, as part of the seaport, is owned and operated by the Port Authority "Port of Helsinki Ltd" (state-owned company). There are all 4 docks serving cruise liners – West Harbour, Hernesaari, Katajanokka Quay, and South Harbour.
Larger cruise ships dock at Munkkisaari Quay. The Helsinki cruise port terminal there is located at Hernematalankatu 6. The facilities/amenities include Wi-Fi Internet, tourist guides, phones, souvenir shop. The distance to Helsinki airport is 24 km (15 mi).
Cruise ships used Melkki Quay (in West Harbour) until 2019, as the area was planned to become maritime residential complex. Melkki Quay was replaced by a new cruise ship quay at Hernesaari. The new quay serves mainly larger liners (max LOA length 360 m / 1180 ft). Also, the passenger traffic to downtown is now handled more efficiently via a new tramline.
Port's cruise ship traffic was moved from South Harbour to West Harbour due to the vessels' growing size. Currently, Hernesaari and Lansisatama terminals handle around 90% of all international cruise passengers to Helsinki.
The new quay's construction started in 2017 and was completed in 2019. The LHD pier at Hernesaari Dock was officially inaugurated on April 30, 2019. New berth's first liner was MSC Meraviglia. The ceremony was attended by Ms Pia Pakarinen (city's Deputy Mayor), Michele Francioni (MSC's Senior VP) and Ville Haapasaari (Port Helsinki's CEO).
Hernesaari Dock can handle cruise vessels with LOA length up to 360 m (1181 ft). All vessels 215 m (705 ft) or longer (serving over 90% of all passengers) berth at Helsinki's Hernesaari quarter.
There are 2 docks for cruise ships - Valtameri Quay and Melkki Quay. Both are at the south end of the port's West Dock. The distance to downtown is approx 3 km (2 mi). Shuttle bus services are provided. Passengers can also catch taxis or ferryboats to Market Square (Kauppatori).
Until 2019, cruise liners used Melkki Quay, as the area was planned to become a maritime residential complex, also offering boating and yachting services.
Smaller-sized cruise ships dock at Katajanokka district’s end - at Katajanokanlaituri 2 Terminal. Its quays also serve ferries to Tallinn Estonia.
There are 2 docks (port's largest) in South Harbour - Pakkahuone Quay and Olympia Quay, both located in downtown and all attractions are at easy walking distance.
Helsinki Ferry Terminals
Helsinki Port has all 4 ferry terminals. Three are near the city's center (Katajanokka, South Harbour, West Harbour) and the 4th is Vuosaari. These ferry terminals handle ~11 million passengers plus ~1/4 of the port's freight traffic. RoRo traffic alone often brings daily up to 4000 vehicles to the city.
Helsinki's newest ferry terminal is Lansisatama (West Harbour).
West Terminal offers smooth shipping traffic operations and features a new automated vessel docking system (at quay LJ7) that uses vacuum technology to hold berthed vessels in place. There is also a new dual ramp that allows vehicles to be driven onto the ferry (RoRo ship) n 2 levels at a time.
The new ferry terminal project was started in January 2015. Its quays were completed in June 2015. West Terminal 2's construction works started in September 2015. Terminal's check-in car area was opened in May 2016. The new gate at West Harbour has automated identification and check-in. The gate is shared with the ferry companies.
The dual ram was built in December 2016. The Pihlajasaari bypass route was completed in December 2016. Passenger corridors was completed in December 2016 (LJ6) and March 2017 (LJ7 and LJ8).
Disembarkation bridges were installed in January 2017 (LJ7) and May 2017 (LJ8). The tram line to West Terminal 2 was opened for traffic in February 2017. West Terminal 2 complex (all infrastructure works) were completed in March 2017.
Among Port Helsinki's main contractors were the companies YIT Rakennus Oy, Alekon Holding AS, Adelte Ports & Maritime, Konepaja Survonen OyAro Systems Oy, NCC Roads Oy. Next YouTube video release by the port authority is also about Lansisatama (West Terminal 2).
Following the project's completion, were accomplished the following goals:
- Car traffic was reduced via good public transportation links.
- Waste water from the ships can be discharged free of charge at all its quays.
- Ship-shore power is provided at all quays, thus reducing bad emissions.
- Automated gate operations reduced port's congestion and vessel idling.
- MoorMaster units (automated ship mooring) allows ships to be moored / unmoored more quickly, which reduces fuel consumption and bad emissions.
- The new quays are located coherently to the ferry route, which leads to smoother shipping traffic and less bad emissions.
- Terminal's power is generated by solar panels.
- LNG refuelling is facilitated.
In order to handle more efficiently the ferry traffic, the port was also considering the option of building underground tunnels (going under dowtown Helsinki). However, this option implied huge investments and complex construction works, and was eventually discarded.
As the Helsinki port's ferry traffic is constantly increasing, a redistribution of the ferry terminals is also considered. Some ferry lines could be relocated to Vousaari. However, such decision would require the existing subway to be extended to the harbour area. However, this also is a huge investment, and difficult to justify for ferry passengers only.
Ferries are regularly scheduled as the city is visited not only by tourists (on short trips), but also by commuters living in Estonia and working in Finland.
Regularly scheduled ferries connect the city with Tallinn, Mariehamn and Stockholm. Finnlines ferry ships (passenger and cargo) connects it to Gdynia, Travemünde and Rostock. The St Peter Line offers daily ferry service to St Petersburg.
Helsinki tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- The Botanical Garden: Botaniska trädgården will offer you amazing time in its gardens.
- The House of Parliament: or Eduskuntatalo.
- The new opera house: or Finnish National Opera’s Oopperatalo dates from 1993. It is located in Töölö.
- Heureka: the science center is located in Vantaa and features different exhibitions and IMAX.
- Sandudd (Hietaniemi): one of the top-rated beaches in Helsinki. It is near the downtown city.
- Helsinki Olympic Stadium: located at the junction of Mannerheimintie with Helsinginkatu, beyond the the old Trade Fair Hall. You can visit also the Finnish Sport Museum. The statue in front of the entrance is Paavo Nurmi’s, famous runner.
- Linnanmäki Amusement Park: located at Tivolikuja 1, east of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The park offers giant wheel, water tower and more. It dates from 1950 but it was continually upgraded and improved.
- House of Culture: located at Sturenkatu 4. Its designer is Alvar Aalto. There is a small Lenin park behind.
- Alvar Aalto Museum Gallery
- Temppeliaukio Church (Lutheran church in the city's Toolo neighborhood)
- Sibelius Monument - dedicated to the composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
- The National Museum of Finland
- Seurasaari Open-Air Museum
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