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EU emissions directive opens way for Finnish icebreakers

A new directive aimed at curbing shipping industry sulphur emissions could open up new opportunities for Finnish icebreakers. The directive, which comes into force in 2015, will reduce the power of freight vessels, making it more difficult for them to move through ice-packed waters.

Jäänmurtaja Voima Katajanokan rannassa Helsingissä.
Arctia Shippingin jäänmurtaja Voima Katajanokan rannassa Helsingissä perjantaina. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

The shipping industry was the most ardent critic of the European Union directive aimed at restricting the sulphur content used in shipping industry fuels.

It pointed out that the measure would require vessels to be fitted with costly “scrubbers” to remove sulphur from emissions before they enter the atmosphere.

However the state-owned icebreaker company Arctia Shipping is planning new fleet acquisitions in anticipation of greater demand for its icebreaking services.

“At the moment our fleet comprises seven icebreakers, but in the future this could reach the double-digits, purely based on the needs of the Baltic,” said Arctia Shipping chief executive Tero Vauraste.

Greater need in the Baltic

The Baltic Sea is classified as a Sulphur Emission Control Area under the directive, which means stricter limits than for waters in southern Europe.

The new limit for the Baltic Sea, set at a tenth of current levels, will come into force in 2015. In EU waters outside the Sulphur Emission Control Areas, a limit of 0.5 percent will apply from 2020.

Vauraste could not yet say with any certainty when new vessels would be acquired, but believes they will be needed.

“In the future freight vessels will have lower engine power than today, and because of this more icebreaking equipment will be required as the need for assistance grows,” he added.

The icebreaker CEO noted that Arctia Shipping is debt free and has the funds needed to invest in new fleet purchases.

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