A shipbuilding revival

The coastal town of Rauma in Finland has long been associated with its maritime industry. Shipbuilding traditions in the western town, whose wooden centre is a UNESCO heritage site, stretch back to the 16th century, with the 19th century regarded as the golden age for the industry. At the time, Rauma would have the largest fleet of sailing ships in Finland, totalling 57 vessels. One of the proud representatives of the area’s strong roots in shipbuilding is Rauma Marine Constructions – a company founded in 2014, following the public acquisition of the shipyard area by the local authorities, as it became clear that the previous owner was closing down its operations due to economic reasons.

“We were a group of enthusiasts, who, supported by local investors and the City of Rauma, saw an opportunity to bring the facility back to life,” Håkan Enlund, Rauma Marine Constructions’ Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, begins. “It is key to mention that the municipal authorities had a very clear vision of the shipyard’s capabilities, hence their decision to buy all the assets from the former owner. We commenced operation officially on July 1st.”

Håkan remembers that the company was helped to a head start early on by signing a contract with Finland’s icebreaker operator Arctia. “We were awarded a threeyear maintenance contract for two ships, which was where we really started from. Simultaneously, we would engage with smaller refurbishment projects, which kept us busy throughout 2015. In the following year, we won our first newbuilding vessel contract – a 158-metre car and passenger ferry for Danish shipping company, Molslinjen, and this ship is now due for delivery, currently going through the last interior fit-out and commissioning.”

Worth over 68 million euros, the sizable contract saw Rauma build the ferry according to the specifications of the Køge (Sjælland) – Rønne (Bornholm) route it is going to operate on. The ship’s passenger capacity is over 700 people and it will also be able to accommodate around 90 freight trailers. “It has been a very suitable project for us, as it allowed us to demonstrate the vast knowledge we have accumulated in naval architecture, regarding the layout and the system design on board. It is a fairly straightforward ship with clear environmentally-friendly requirements, as well as demands regarding its speed and operability, which we were able to address,” Håkan comments. “The logistics co-ordination proved to be the challenging aspect of the project. We had to take care not only of the efficient processing of the materials, but also manage the flow of information and make sure that every employee is in the right place dealing with the right equipment during the implementation of the programme.”

Whilst still building the impressive ferry for Molslinjen, Rauma had taken on another significant project, which involved the refurbishment and modernisation of research vessel Aranda, owned by the Finnish Environmental Institute. “It took us more than six months to complete the works on Aranda, but the ship is now ready to recommence its service. It was quite a remarkable operation for us, because we had to lengthen the vessel by six metres and then put in some state-of-the-art technology needed for Aranda’s research capabilities,” Håkan discusses. He adds that Rauma is presently engaged with delivering maintenance service to the multipurpose icebreakers MSV Fennica and Nordica, as well as providing steel structures to Meyer in Turku.

It was through building car and passenger ferries that Rauma became a well-known name in the Scandinavian region, but the company’s skills in the construction of icebreakers and special vessels have also been highly regarded by its clients. Furthermore, the Finnish Navy has had all of its combat vessels constructed in Rauma since 1986, and Håkan is happy to reveal that the company has been commissioned to work on the Navy’s next major programme.

He demonstrates a strong sense of local pride, highlighting the origin of the ships as a mark of quality recognised by ship owners and operators. “I remember that when we renewed operations at the shipyard here, we had a number of phone calls from owners who had a vessel built in Rauma, who told us: ‘We hope you will continue to build car and passenger ferries in Rauma, because we have one in our fleet and that is the best ship we have,’ and these statements made us extremely happy. It is the location where a vessel was built and the people who built it that stays in the customer’s mind, and we feel an obligation of a kind to continue developing our yard and match the historical standards it has set over the years,” Håkan enthuses.

“The town has built the reputation of a shipbuilding leader and we want to reclaim this position with our new company. The car and passenger ferry market is certainly experiencing a need, which we are aiming to serve. We have been targeting this segment and have had some phenomenal responses so far. It is definitely a good sign that our sales department is facing an incredible workload at the moment. They are hardly getting any vacation,” he chuckles, opening up about Rauma’s long-term aspirations.

“We are also seeing an increase in demand for the construction of new icebreakers. The Baltic Sea with the Gulf of Bothnia, situated between Finland’s west coast and Sweden’s east coast, are the only region in the world where every harbour freezes every year. To us, it is obvious that the icebreaker fleets in Finland and Sweden are coming of age. The Finnish government has already committed itself to launch a renewal programme and modernise its own fleet, which is another encouraging industry development for our business,” Håkan sums up.

Rauma Marine Constructions
Constructs car and passenger ferries, icebreakers, and special vessels
Has just built a new 158-metre RoPax ferry
Employs 400 direct and indirect employees