A global hub

Founded in response to Finland’s industrialisation to export goods to the global market, the Port of Hanko has a history that dates back to 1873. Situated in the south of Finland, ice-free Hanko is the most southerly of all ports in the country and with external pressures rising on the shipping industry is most ideally placed to take advantage of a changing market. Currently the seventh largest port in Finland, and the largest for German Ro-Ro traffic, the Port of Hanko predominantly handles export of Finland’s paper products and import of consumer goods, demonstrating a healthy 52:48 balance between export and import, respectively. Amongst its most significant activities is its relationship with the automotive industry, in which the port holds an 80 per cent market share for the import of new cars – around 100,000 units every year. Historically it has handled these volumes from two main harbours, the Western Port, for liner traffic, and the Outer Port for PCC vessels. However, with the recent acquisition of a former industrial port in Koverhar, 20km away, the port is set to expand significantly over the coming years.

With shipping partners such as Transfennica, SOL, Finnlines and Navirail, the Port of Hanko currently facilitates a number of daily calls from Europe. As of October, the port has so far received 1405 vessel calls during 2015 from many of Europe’s major ports. This includes 15 daily departures to Germany with Transfennica, Finnlines and SOL calling at the ports of Lübeck and Rostock, and eight to Estonia, Port of Paldiski, and subsequently Eastern Europe, with Navirail.

“We have seen an increase in cargo volumes every year for the last three years,” begins CEO of the port, Anders Ahlvik. “By the end of this year we would have handled around four million tonnes, an increase of 15 per cent on 2014.” However, despite this positive growth at the Port of Hanko, Mr Ahlvik goes on to explain that this is not due to an overall increase in a European market that is showing little signs of activity growth. Instead he attributes it to the competitiveness of the port and the resulting increase in customers using Hanko over other Finnish Ports.

“The key strength is our location,” he continues. “We are the closest to the rest of Europe over the Baltic Sea, and therefore can often provide the best gateway for the European market. With the sulphur directive coming into force, which will see the fuel price rise, shorter distances are going to become much more economical for shipping operators so they will benefit from our location. We then make sure to support this with a highly professional offering of port services around the harbours and we are unusual in Finland in that the port is open 24/7 all year around.”

Part of the strategy to cope with rising demand for the port has been realised with the acquisition of Koverhar harbour. Covering more than 600 hectares and with an excellent fairway, Koverhar provides the opportunity for the Port of Hanko to increase its dry bulk cargo volumes. “We have started to market this new harbour throughout 2015 and there has been a lot of interest in the space available,” says Mr Ahlvik. “It gives new customers new possibilities, and opens the port up even more to the global market. As the area becomes more and more popular for operators we are seeking to handle several million tonnes of cargo to double the volume of the Port of Hanko over the next ten to 15 years.”

By utilising the naturally deep fairway and by dredging the port area, Koverhar will eventually offer a complete 15.3 metre sailing depth, meaning it can accommodate any vessel within the Baltic Sea. Significantly, Mr Ahlvik comments on the new harbour’s location and the opportunities it represents to a far larger market: “The Russian market is not far away at all and we are confident that once today’s situation with Russia is over we will be able to work very closely with that market and start seeing some key growth in terms of both import and export volumes.”

Keen not to focus all its attention on the establishment of Koverhar however, the Port of Hanko has also been investing heavily into its two existing sites to increase capacity. “We are planning to deepen the fairway to the outer port to a sailing dept of 9.2 metres and are investing into the repair and upgrade of our quay there to handle up to 200 metre vessels – it currently stands at 160 metres. This will start over the coming months to be finished in 2016,” Mr Ahlvik explains. “Also as we are dredging we hope to use the collected sand to build and rebuild new spaces in the western port to give us more land to handle lorries and trailers, which is the main volume for liner traffic.”

With potentially challenging market conditions in its favour and a strong service capability supporting its growth, outlook for the Port of Hanko looks positive. “The future will be focused on increasing volumes,” adds Mr Ahlvik. “It will be about carrying on with business as usual and making sure we continue this strong offering. We have a new customer coming on board at the beginning of 2016 and this relationship alone will significantly increase our steel handling volumes at the port, for instance. In the longer term it is difficult to predict, but everything is heading in the right direction at present and we are confident that this will continue over the coming years.”

Port of Hanko

Most southerly port in Finland

Largest Finnish Ro-Ro port serving the German market

Plans to increase capacity with the opening of a third harbour