Mining for growth

Acting as an excellent import and export harbour for industries within the Barents Region, the Port of Kemi, in Finland, offers the fastest route to the northern areas of Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Murmansk area in Russia. Situated along a range of favourable logistic routes, the port helps reduce the total costs of transportation; it also offers guaranteed ice-breaking and towing services to visiting vessels all year round and is home to Sampo, the only icebreaker vessel in the world operating specifically for tourism purposes.

The port consists of the Ajos harbour, which serves as an efficient logistics for the whole of Lapland and the Barents Region; it is located approximately ten kilometres south of the City of Kemi and approximately 39 kilometres from the Kemi Lighthouse. The minimum width of the channel is 100 metres and depth is ten metres. It has four quays, and the total length of the quays is approximately 920 metres, and two quays have railway connection. This harbour also includes the separate oil harbour, which has a mobile crane with a 7/6 – 12 tonne lifting capacity and container crane at its four quays.

There is also the Veitsiluoto Harbour, serving primarily as the import station for raw materials en route to the Veitsiluoto plant in operation by the Stora Enso Company. The total length of the quays is approximately 810 metres, while the navigatable depth is seven metres; of the harbour’s seven berths, one is designed for the unloading from Sto-Ro ships from the side, while another is a normal Sto-Ro berth. The modern harbour has large huge warehouses and a wide area for the shipping of chemicals that are used in the production of paper, an industry that the Port of Kemi is an active player in.

“Our main customers are companies in the forest industry, which is due to our area,” says Reijo Viitala, port director, MD, at Port of Kemi, “Traffic at the port has increased by more than ten per cent in the first six months of this year, with the production of bulk and cardboard going well. However, there are difficulties with the forestry industry at the moment as Europe is not using paper so much; this is an issue for us because these are our main customers at the Port of Kemi.”

Handling a basic volume of 2.5 million tonnes a year in import and export, mainly from the forestry industry, the Port of Kemi has remained relatively stable despite the downturn. However, the port is keen to diversify its core markets and target new sectors such as the mining industry, as Reijo highlights: “We have a new customer, Baltic Bulk Ltd, which has begun to warehouse and export copper concentrate from a mine in Lapland. Our traffic is maybe growing 50,000 tonnes a year with cargo concentrate, but it is not so easy for mining industries nowadays as the cost of metal is going down. Despite this, we are in ongoing discussions with two mining companies and have spent the last four years importing equipment and machinery for use in mining. We are targeting volumes of up to five million in traffic if we are successful in our negotiations for two large contracts, one of which is a massive aggregate export deal from a major client in the mining industry, but no decisions have been made yet.”

As the nearest universal port to mines in North Finland, Sweden and north-west Russia, the Port of Kemi finalised improvements to its railway connections in 2012 in preparation for the export of mining materials and also the potential increase in traffic from Russia’s Northern Sea Route. “We are very interested in the Northern Sea Route and anticipate changes happening between Europe and Asia; this could lead to cargo coming from Asia that will come on trains to these ports from Europe,” says Reijo. These investments are part of a huge 20 million euro upgrade programme that could possibly commence in 2015-2016 and involves developing port facilities and completely upgrading harbour facilities.

Another key investment at the port is a new larger and modern vessel that is expected to join its towing fleet in early 2015. This addition will enable the Port of Kemi to improve reliability and its ability to assist larger vessels during harsh winter months. These developments will also improve issues highlighted in a customer satisfaction survey the port and Kemi Shipping Oy conducted in early 2013. The results showed the majority of customers at the port are satisfied with the personalised service, openness, fast response to changing customer demands and accessibility of the port, which were all viewed as core strengths. However, required improvements at the port include renovation, maintenance, and a faster response to customer enquiries; moreover, the port must aim to be more active in finding new business and traffic to support existing business.

Following the results of the survey, the Port of Kemi anticipates the mining companies it is negotiating with will make a decision either late 2013 to early 2014 that will enable it to generate more traffic and increase volume growth. Furthermore, the port is aiming to increase its presence in the renewables sector and is awaiting a decision on the development of a new bio-diesel plant close to the port area. This proposed plan has been delayed by a year or two but the port is confident it will proceed, renting a 40-hectare site so work, once a positive decision has been made, can proceed immediately. “Our main hope for the future is that forestry industry continues because they are major players in our area; we also hope the mining companies we are negotiating choose to partner with us in these upcoming projects,” concludes Reijo.

Northern gateway port
Closest to the Barents Region
Beginning mining export