Finnish and Estonian maritime clusters should be developed together

There is a need to introduce common economic incentives to support the development of environmentally friendly maritime transport both in and between Finland and Estonia.

Finland and Estonia both have a small but lively and nationally significant maritime clusters. They are different but are linked each other through skills, manpower and development projects.

Many Estonian sailors work on Finnish ships and vice versa. Estonian workers and subcontractors are often found in Finnish shipyards. Estonian experts in the maritime industry, and especially in shipbuilding, are commonly trained in Finland. Finnish and Estonian tourists, industry and commuters travel on shipping lines and via ports connecting the countries. We are all deeply part of each other’s maritime clusters.

Cooperation between the Finnish and Estonian maritime industries is a huge advantage for both countries. The more professionals, workforce, companies, shipping companies, forward-looking research and cooperation between the countries, the better the performance of both maritime clusters. Not forgetting one of the most efficient passenger transport lines in the world between Helsinki and Tallinn, which serves millions of passengers a year with the industry’s newest ships. The shipping companies on the route are constantly developing their fleet, and, for example, efficient port arrangements.

At the beginning of March, a report on co-operation between Finland and Estonia to develop co-operation between Estonia and Finland was published, see this.

The recommendations concern cooperation in the fields of the economy, green transition, digital cooperation, culture and education.

The report states that Estonia and Finland are both small, interconnected countries at the northeast edge of Europe. They are both highly digitalized, and their economies are open and dependent on reliable international flows.

In addition, the report states that Finland and Estonia should look to the future together.

Both Finland and Estonia are committed to the European Green Deal, the European Climate Law with the binding target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050, and the goal of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030. The green transition will mean significant economic opportunities for clean tech and circular economy businesses and solutions.

From a maritime point of view, there are points of interest in the report. Particular attention has been paid to shipping, the maritime cluster and the green transition of shipping. A large part of the maritime traffic should be carbon-neutral by 2050, calling for action today. New solutions need to be found in ship-building and maritime transport through the introduction of innovative technologies.

Intelligent traffic solutions and data-sharing can ease some of the negative externalities of large traffic volumes across the Gulf and through the ports. The program proposes co-operation between Finland and Estonia regarding green shipping.

There is a need to introduce common economic incentives to support the development of environmentally friendly maritime transport between Finland and Estonia. Governmental subsidies, e.g. research and piloting project funding, should encourage green transition also at sea. The significant fleet transitions around the world bring economic opportunities for Finnish and Estonian maritime technology firms and the shipping industry, and new opportunities for cooperation. In other words, we can sell our maritime high-technology to the countries around the world.

At the same time, new technologies may create new risks that also need to be addressed in cooperation. For instance, while automated or self-driving vessels can create new areas of technological development, automatization and digitalization, they also involve vulnerabilities that increase the demand for new solutions for cyber security and the protection of computer systems on vessels; furthermore, there will be a demand for certification and auditing services for the systems. This could constitute a promising new area for cooperation on technological innovation between the two countries.

Several measures are presented in the program. Particular attention will be paid to measure n:o 3.3:

Transform the Gulf of Finland into a sustainable transport corridor by making regular Estonia-Finland traffic carbon-neutral by 2035. To this end, we call for establishing common economic incentives. The governments play a significant role in fostering the development in fields such as battery vessel development and hydrogen fuel engines.

Writers of the report believe that it is better to be ahead of the green transition curve, and aim to market with tried and tested solutions to the latecomer markets. This could create economic opportunities for Finnish and Estonian maritime technology firms and the shipping industry at large.

Special attention should be paid to high-tech and start-up companies. Both Finland and Estonia have been very successful in recent years in creating start-up ecosystems and attracting funding. Together, they will be able to attract both a highly skilled workforce and international companies and investors to the region.

I therefore recommend that Finland and Estonia jointly create joint maritime cluster work instead of national maritime cluster surveys and start active co-operation to design measures. One such proposition would be to set the goal of developing the shipping line between Helsinki and Tallinn into the most environmentally friendly sea line in the world. In practice, it would mean high-technology vessels, new low or zero-carbon fuels, and efficient and sustainable port operations.

We have the know-how to do so, and it will enable us to raise our maritime cluster to world-class level in terms of both reputation and technological development, while creating know-how and global export potential for both our countries.

This article was published in Meremees 2/2022.

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