It is possible to reduce the cost of icebreaking?

The fairway responsibility model would increase the responsibility of ports in icebreaking on access and archipelago routes.

HELSINGIN SANOMAT reported (2.6.) that Finland achieved its goal in the EU climate package by considering the special conditions of winter shipping. Finland’s foreign trade is almost entirely dependent on shipping, and the rise in the cost of winter shipping would bring severe problems to it.

However, it has been overlooked in the debate that we could reduce the cost of icebreaking to our foreign trade already now if we targeted icebreaking activities more precisely.

Icebreaking is free of charge in Finland if the vessels meet certain technical and operational requirements. The cost of icebreaking is covered by fairway due. Their cost depends on the type of ship, the size, the number of visits and the ice class of the ship. In practice, this means that even during the summer, foreign cruise vessels visiting our country and do not use icebreaking at all, pay the cost of icebreaking through the fairway dues.

The vessels to be assisted are also not prioritized, but all receive the same service. The level of service is measured by the waiting time. The target average waiting time for all ships is to be less than four hours.

However, shipping is very differentiated with different needs. There are ships for which these four hours of waiting is not a problem at all. On the other hand, in high-speed liner traffic, the long wait mix up several-day schedules and generate significant financial losses for both the shipping company and the shipper.

It would be possible to significantly reduce the costs of icebreaking in Finland by using the port fairway responsibility model. That would mean increasing the responsibility of ports on access and archipelago routes. The state would continue to be responsible for offshore icebreaking at pilot sites.

This should be done in such a way that the ports, together with the shippers, order, or even arrange for, the icebreaker to the level of service they want. They would also pay for icebreaking according to the level of service they want.

In this case, the best service offering would be where icebreaking is most needed – such as in a major industrial or urban port – and cost savings would be made where demand for icebreaking is lower.

In the long run, this could also lead to a reduction in the number of winter ports in Finland, a more efficient use of the remaining port capacity and a reduction in investment costs. This would reduce the logistics costs of Finnish export industry.

This piece of opinion has been published in Helsingin Sanomat 15th June 2022.

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