Finland is a member of the EU and an advanced European economy. In the vast majority of cases, you won’t experience any risks or delays when shipping to a customer in Finland. However, the physical journey to Finland from the UK has historically been a risky business. In this article we shall share with you some stories about how the treacherous waters of the Baltic still pose a risk for commercial shipping – and mention some recent shipping disasters along the coast.
At the same time, we shall guide you with practical tips to prevent anything adverse from happening to your cargo on its way to, or out of, Finland.
The Baltic Sea & Shipping Risks
The Gulf of Finland is one of the most dangerous shores in Europe, mainly due to frequent episodes of the Baltic Sea’s temper tantrums.
The Baltic Sea is considerably shallower than other channels in Europe, with a narrow route mapped for shipping and sluggish water currents. The colder northern parts of the Baltic also stay frozen for quite some time every year, providing a comparatively narrow window for ice free shipping to ports in northern Sweden, Finland and Russia. Due to the risk of extreme seasonal weather conditions at sea, the Gulf of Finland has been classified by the IMO as a ‘particularly sensitive sea area’ The rocky archipelago at the entrance to the Gulf is an especially treacherous area for ships of most sizes.
Finnish Shipping Horror Stories
In light of the above, occasional stories of shipping disasters and cargo loss should not come as a surprise. While there are two tragic stories of peacetime shipping disasters in which hundreds of lives were lost in, or close to, Finnish waters (MS Kuru, Sep 1929 and MS Estonia, Sep 1994), there have been many more cargo -related accidents with no loss of life but extensive damage to ships and cargo. Note that the worst accidents commonly take place between September and November – Autumn to the beginning of winter – when the Baltic Sea is wracked with strong gales and unpredictable surge tides.
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, also known as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, keeps a track of shipping accident in the Baltic Sea and issues annual reports discussing the various factors involved in the accidents occurring each year. The reports analyse data trends and risk levels, with the latest showing a steady increase in the number of accidents occurring in the Baltic. In 2013, for instance 150 shipping accidents were reported.
While adverse weather conditions pose the most risk to shipping in the autumn and winter, collisions between ships are not unknown in the spring and summer, especially on the busiest shipping lanes. In 2006, a collision between a Russian freighter and Finnish cargo vessel 45 km of the coast of Finland resulted in the complete loss of both ship’s cargo.
Factors To Consider While Shipping To Finland
While the risk of cargo loss and damage is low, the risk of delay and inflated prices due to bad weather or congested shipping is very real. There are certain practices that cargo haulage companies can adopt when shipping goods to Finland. The most common are:
- Avoiding midsummer or midwinter cargo travel, since the Baltic attracts huge amounts of traffic during the summer, and the northern parts of the sea freeze over by midwinter.
- Using larger shipping vessels, as these can better handle rough weather and bad grounding, or even collision damage than smaller vessels.
In practice, these considerations mean that sea freight to Finland is expensive during the summer, and is subject to longer delivery times in the winter. To avoid increased risk, higher premiums and longer lead times, you may want to explore alternative routes to Finland, such as shipping to Norway or Sweden, and then onward road transport to Finland, or a longer journey from a port in Denmark or even Germany.
Affordable, Risk-Free Transport To Finland
At NTEX, with permanent manned offices in Finland, we can advise you of the best and most cost-effective routes at any time of year. We employ due diligence, the best shipping companies and highly trained logistics professionals to ensure your freight is delivered safely and on time whenever you need to ship. Click here to discuss your needs with us and ask for a quote.