With long traditions and world-class know-how on ice conditions and icebreaking technologies, Finland plays a key role in the development of artic marine technology.
23 October 2013
Aurora Borealis - a new European research icebreaker - is on the drawing boards of Aker Arctic, a global leader in
design and ice model testing. Photo: EU
Finland plays a key role in developing Arctic marine
by Yrjö Myllylä, Jon McEwan, Jari Kaivo-oja
The demand for arctic natural resources and human activity is increasing for many reasons.
Increasing prices of raw materials, Russia’s geopolitical focus shifting to North after collapse
of the former Soviet Union and the development of new cost-effective and eco-friendly
technologies in addition to climate change are the main reasons for increased demand. In
utilization of Arctic natural resources and new international trade routes marine technology is
of importance and its demand is forecasted to rapidly grow. With long traditions and world-
class know-how on ice conditions and icebreaking technologies, Finland is playing a key role
in the development of Arctic maritime transport.
According the new Arctic maritime technology foresight project in Finland, globally, the most
important countries in the Arctic region are the five Arctic Ocean coastal states; the United States,
Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Norway, and Russia.
Of these countries, particularly important from the Finnish marine industry point of view are the
world’s largest country - Russia - as well as Norway and Canada. They are new arctic giants of the
world economy. In addition, Denmark, the United States and Asian countries: China, Japan, India,
South Korea, and Indonesia are seen as fairly important partners of Finnish stakeholders networking
with globalized trade networks.
The challenge for globalization is recognizing strategic players and the small, medium enterprises´
(SMEs’) limited resources for global networking. However, Internet and e-trade are enabling
business activities also for SMEs. Arctic e-trade is forecasted to increase in the future.
Figure 1. Prospective areas for hard minerals, oil and gas and other activities in Arctic. The Arctic
marine technology is first and foremost a question of utilization of natural resources: gas and oil,
minerals and timber. It is also necessary for food consumption and arctic tourism. Source:
Arctic marine technology is driven by resource extraction
The Arctic marine technology takes into account the characteristics of the Arctic
environment: cold, snow, ice, temperature changes, rapidly changing weather
conditions, darkness, light, long distances, sensitive ecosystems, threatened
species, and climate change with extreme weather conditions.
The Arctic marine technology is first and foremost a question of utilization of
natural resources: gas and oil, minerals and timber. It is also necessary for food
consumption – Arctic fishing stocks for harvesting and new international trade
routes: the Northeast Passage which is also known as the Northern Sea Route and
the Northwest Passages to world markets.
Natural resources belong to the core interests of industrialized nations growing
demand for basic commodities e.g. lead, zinc, copper, iron, nickel, palladium, and
platinum to name a few in addition to energy resources.
The strongest marine mini-clusters and products in highest demand of Finnish
Arctic marine technology are:
* the environmental protection technology;
* meteorology and weather forecasting, including essential, and;
* controls and monitoring systems for ships including ice going vessels.
There is strong demand of these high-tech products and services and as measured
by employment and profit. Rapid growth is forecasted in the markets of Arctic
marine technology products in the coming decades with climate change opening
up the Arctic Region to broader human and cultural interaction.
The fastest areas of potential growth, as compared to the previous levels of
business in terms of employment and profit, is in:
* the research and drilling operations (Fig 4-6);
* offshore construction (Fig 2), and;
* safety and rescue operations (Fig 3).
Forerunner in seagoing vessels
In Finland, ship building has been traditionally the strongest sector providing short-term and vital
cash flow in the maritime cluster. The construction of innovative ice going vessels is supported by
the transport and logistics systems with Finnish know-how and over fifty years of ice data.
Icebreakers developed over the last hundred years out of necessity to ship over ice packed waters in
the Baltic Sea.
Figure 2. Tecnip Company produces oilplatforms in City of Pori in Finland. In future there will need more and more
offshore-technology in Arctic. Near Pori is located Rauma yard, which has built many offshore vessels and arctic
research vessels for example in year 2012 “S.A. Agulhas II” Antarctic’s research vessel to South-Africa. Next arctic
maritime city from Rauma to up Finnish coast is Vaasa, where is located Wärtsilä. Photo: Tecnip
Wärtsilä is the world's leading producer of gas power plants, and especially of marine engines for
ships. For example, Wärtsilä to produces LNG, or diesel fuel ship engines. These marine engines
can be power plants, which generate electricity. Electricity is used for effective marine propellers of
electric motors (rudder-propeller) to run for example in demanding icy conditions.
The most famous rudder propeller brand name is ABB's Azipod. According to ABB: “Azipod® is a
podded electric propulsion unit where the variable speed electric motor driving the fixed pitch
propeller is in a submerged pod outside the ship hull, and the pod can be rotated around its vertical
axis to give the propulsion thrust freely to any direction. Thus the ship does not need rudders, stern
transversal thrusters or long shaft lines inside the ship hull.”
Wärtsilä's engine and ABB's Azipod azimuth propeller form together the transmission system,
which has produced a powerful new DAS-ship concept. The same ships can operate both as freight
and icebreaking ships. They pass by the worst icebergs by reversing.
One good example of this concept is the year-round transport ship of the ore concentrates from
Dudinka to Murmansk by Norilsk Nickel – Helsinki ship. The power plant engine and rotating
electric motor driven propellers have also proved to be useful in the large cruise ships that require a
lot of electricity. In addition, for example the 360-degree rotating-propeller facilitates navigation of
large ships in ports.
Because arctic and other yards and ABB’s Azipod, there is today in Finland increasing propeller
cluster including for example Rolls Royce and Steerprop companies manufacturing propellers. or in
the propeller business.
Ensuring future competitiveness
Presently is the time to invest in the evolving Arctic marine technology (AMT) to ensure dynamic
future growth prospects. These investments are needed in long-term research and development
programs supporting the AMT cluster.
Finland may need a new research laboratory, for example, to test and study oil spills in icy
conditions simulating Baltic or Arctic waters. Currently, the leading industrial companies rent lab
time on a fully booked New Jersey lab in the United States. Additionally, other laboratories are
needed for Arctic cold temperatures testing of materials to advance this competitive edge.
Figure 3. Icebreaking rescue vessel NB 508. The hull assembly of an icebreaking multipurpose emergency and rescue
vessel for Russian Ministry of Transport started 28 June 2013 at Arctech Helsinki Shipyard. The vessel will be used in
icebreaking, rescue and oil combatting operations in the Gulf of Finland. There is in Finland also Mobimar, Lamor and
Marine Alutech companies, which produce oil spill response technology and work boats to arctic conditions. Source:
Arctech Helsinki Shipyard.
In Finland, the main focus should primarily be within the Helsinki metropolitan area. In particular,
the emphasis is on the job creation and retention of specialized skill sets for building Arctic research
vessels, icebreakers, supply vessels, ice management vessels, oil recovery vessels, search and
rescue vessels, as well as hybrid and multi-purpose vessels.
The most important products and services are bringing the much anticipated innovations in
environmental technology for oil spill recovery. This is followed by weather forecasting,
meteorology, controls and monitoring systems and related services that are needed with expected
increases in Arctic economic activities with the warming trend of climate change and ice retreat
opening up expansion of shipping lanes in the North. Despite the critical need for these products
and services is the realization of each in terms of practical and thriving business ideas is difficult for
the AMT cluster’s SMEs to manage and gauge demand.
Russian interests move to the North promoting Northeast Passage
Strong prospective trends may increase the demand for Arctic marine technology. By interviewing
panels of marine cluster experts, the main external trends affecting Finland’s arctic marine
technology development are the expansion of economic possibilities of Russia’s new role in the
No doubt, Russia is going to be the driver in the Arctic economy networks and business activities. It
clearly reveals the technological progress required for not only navigation in difficult ice conditions
with harsh weather even with ice retreat, but the transport and logistics of bringing the North’s vast
resources to world markets.
Arctic development in Russia’s North is in the media forefront, due to growing demand for northern
natural resources, an insatiable demand for arctic minerals and oil and gas exploration, as well as in
an increase in the political will for the promotion and benefit of the Northeast Passage.
A key element of the North’s demand growth is also Russia’s economic interests shifted to a
Northern strategy, as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
The technological development, in turn, involves, for instance, the cost and nature-friendly
transport, energy and environmental technology and information technology development for ship
controls and navigation aided by satellites and the need for real-time monitors.
Figure 4. Arctic offshore vessel NB-506 Vitus Bering was delivered at Arctech Helsinki Shipyard on 21.12.2012 to the
client Sovcomflot, the largest shipping corporation in Russia. The vessel will supply the Arkutun-Dagi oil and gas field
in Sakhalin area, in Far East Russia. Vitus Bering is the first vessel of the series, the sister vessel NB-507 will be
delivered in April 2013. Photo: Yrjö Myllylä, August 2012.
Cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region is import
The strengthening of cooperation in the Baltic Sea Region is also an important trend worthy of
mention. In the very latest conference of Baltic Sea Parliament in August 2013 many important co-
operation programs were reported and new ones planned. There is very strong political will to make
Baltic Sea Region be one of the leading global hot spot regions of sustainable innovation and green
To benefit from the opportunities in the Arctic, Finnish technology industries must develop closer
cooperation and ties with Russia. Yamal and Stokman gas fields need liquefaction facilities, mobile
sea stations, storage and transportation vessels, service vessels and Arctic nuclear powered
Finnish know-how is best demonstrated by innovative oil spill clean-up products that have the
potential to cluster with other actors in the Baltic Sea region. In addition, modernization of the
Russian Navy, a fleet of roughly 2000 ships, will create new opportunities. On the other hand, if
Finland wants to benefit from the opportunities in the Arctic, the Finnish technology industry has to
have closer cooperation with Germany, a leader in many areas of technology and innovation.
Understanding weak signals in time will bring a competitive advantage. The challenge in Finnish
ports is that the service can be transferred to go through Norway and Russia. A political reordering
is in progress in the Arctic region and major oil companies are interested in new and different
solutions in the Arctic environment.
Ice management is also important, for example in Sakhalin and in Greenland supply vessels to
prevent large icebergs and ice floes from drifting against the oil platforms and causing damage,
along with oil spill response prevention is aimed for Arctic areas. Ships engines are being required
to be fueled by gas instead of heavy fuel reducing Arctic emissions. Russia’s recent WTO
membership and the release of service sector will open the Arctic to competition.
Figure 5. High level testing environment is important part of Finnish Arctic maritime cluster’s R&D environment. In the
picture is testing Aurora Borealis research vessel. In Finland also developed facilities to test oil spill responce
technology. Photo: Aker Arctic
Wild cards are unlikely to occur, but affect to a more significant extent should they materialize. It is
possible that China’s economic growth may stagnate or a significant oil spill or other disaster occurs
in the Arctic region. Both would stop and “freeze” the northern projects for a long time. Positive
wild cards may be the alliances of Finnish companies with large international players, as well as
creating special economic zones in Kirkkenes in Norway and Murmansk, Vyborg or St. Petersburg
In the best case scenario option, the region could develop new technology centers that are
developing the essential technologies for harsh Arctic environments. In addition to Marine
technology centers, strong potential fields are energy and mining sectors. The SMARCTIC project
studies these available new possibilities.
Photo: Arctia Shipping
Finnish ice-breaking know-how powers ahead
The demand of Arctic and ice-breaking know-how is increasing. Knowledge
is critical to the Arctic super powers and they are willing to cooperate with
the Finns. One of the latest examples includes ice breaker design projects by
Aker Arctic for China and Canada.
After all, Finland has manufactured 60 percent of the world’s icebreakers.
Willingness of this co-operation is manifested in a new Arctech, the Helsinki
Shipyards in 2010, where already the third ice-breaking vessel is being
manufactured, and the fourth order to come from the Russian Ministry of
Transport just before Christmas 2012.
Now is the time to market and showcase the strong Finnish icebreaking expertise
in international media venues, international conferences and trade shows in the
same way as the cruise ship know-how was introduced in the early 1990s.
Also, offshore production platforms and other related facilities construction
represent a significant opportunity for Finnish project expertise in oil and gas
production, the focus is increasingly shifting to colder areas around the Arctic
With oil and gas production projects, the most important are the quality and
schedules. Price competition is incidental to the construction of capital intensive
offshore projects costing billion dollars for production facilities, for example oil
and gas offshore platforms and accessory subsea under the water pipelines and
In addition, the offshore training and the strengthening of project knowledge
must be pursued funded at appropriate levels to further university research at
research and development centers for engineering advancements in ice
technology and Arctic maritime technology.
Cruise ship skills can also look through “Arctic spectacles”
Figure 6. M/S Viking Grace was delivered from STX Finland Turku shipyard on January 2013. It
will operate between Finland and Sweden. The new cruise ferry will be the world's most
environmentally friendly big passenger ship. The vessel uses LNG as fuel and she generates no
marine emissions. Her emissions to the air are extremely minimal low. Photo: Viking Grace
Cruise ship and ferry expertise is rooted in one feature of the Arctic environment,
in other words in long distances and especially in Finland, for example Silja
Line’s and Bore’s orders for cruise ships built in Finnish shipyards. In particular,
the ship traffic between Finland and Sweden has created the need for this
particular type of know-how from the 1960s.
In recent decades, shipbuilding know-how was promoted heavily, enhancing
Finland’s role as an expert in the construction of cruise ships. Know-how has
been scaled, so that Finland manages 20 percent of the cruise ship market, and
has manufactured the world’s largest cruise ships. In the ferry markets, Finland
dominates the field with 40 percent market share. In Finland STX Turku yard has
built 80 percent of world’s biggest cruise ships percent.
This field and its requisite manufacturing are competitive by themselves
essentially supported by domestic supply networks located nearby. In addition,
competitiveness is supported by the Finnish strong project management know-
how, whereby the work is done that is the projects are executed in a reliable and
Finland experienced a decline in cruise orders after the global financial crisis.
The major role of state aid and selected line of action by state authorities have
eroded the Finnish position especially in the cruise ship markets.
Cruise ship skills can also look through “Arctic spectacles” and can also meet the
demand for Arctic tourism in Polar class vessels including the design of research
vessels like the Aurora Borealis that may accommodate 120 people, with half
being researchers and others.
The author is a Senior Research Scientist, Ph.D., Yrjö Myllylä, from RD
Aluekehitys Oy, (Regional Development Ltd). This article is based mainly on a
joint project of maritime industry with Uusimaa ELY center of, which is
forecasting the Arctic marine technology opportunities for Uusimaa SMEs by
2030. For more information, visit the project www.amtuusimaa.net.
Jon McEwan, co-author and an independent researcher, collaborated with Yrjö
Myllylä with Regional Development Ltd (RD Aluekehitys Oy) and he is
Master’s student in the International Program of Human Geography at the
Department of Geographical and Historical Studies at the University of Eastern
Adjunct professor, Jari Kaivo-oja, co-author and research director of the
Finland Futures Research Centre of Turku School of Economics, has worked
with Dr Yrjö Myllylä in the SMARCTIC project making long-run foresight
analyses of the Arctic business potential.