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Rauma shipyard misses deadline due to coronavirus outbreak

A passenger ferry due to be delivered in May will not be ready until June.

Rauman telakka, Rauma Marine Constructions.
The Aurora Botnia ship under construction at the Rauma shipyard in February. Image: Kasper Heimolehto / Yle

A coronavirus outbreak that spread at Rauma shipyard in southwest Finland in February has slowed the completion of a new passenger ferry for the shipping company Wasaline.

Shipyard company RMC says that a new completion date of mid-June has been agreed with Wasaline, instead of May as agreed in the contract.

The new Aurora Botnia vessel will operate on the route between Vaasa, Finland, and Umeå, Sweden.

One in three workers ill

More than a third of the workers at the Rauma Shipyard fell ill with Covid-19 during the late winter and early spring, and the shipyard had to suspend its production almost completely for a week. Since then, strict precautions have been taken at the yard to prevent the epidemic from spreading again.

According to the company, infections were particularly prevalent among foreign workers employed by shipyard subcontractors. Health authorities in the Satakunta region said they suspected that falsified coronavirus test certificates may have worsened the outbreak.

"The pandemic has delayed the delivery of key equipment, among other things. With the June handover, we will be able to ensure that the number of employees working on the ship's finishing and commissioning work can be kept within safe limits," said Jyrki Heinimaa, the yard's CEO.

Aurora Botnia's construction work is in the final phase of equipping and commissioning. Wasaline said that the new schedule is understandable.

"Given the globally challenging situation, the new schedule suits us," said Wasaline CEO Peter Ståhlberg. The delay did not come as a major surprise to Wasaline, he added.

Until the completion of Aurora Botnia, the 40-year-old Wasa Express will ply the Vaasa-Umeå route.

The ferry order is worth about 120 million euros. Heinimaa said the delay will have financial consequences, but he declined to specify whether the shipyard will have to pay compensation to Wasaline.

Billed as "the most environmentally friendly vessel on earth", the 150-metre-long Aurora Botnia will run on biogas and liquid natural gas (LNG), with nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions below the UN International Maritime Organization's strictest IMO Tier III requirement.

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