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Jan Vapaavuori

Helsinki: Developing a smart shipping cluster

The Finnish capital of Helsinki is developing a smart shipping cluster actively bringing together the traditional maritime industry and the IT sector.

Founded as a trading post the sea has played an integral part in the development of Helsinki and today is home to the country’s maritime cluster shipyard specialising on ice breakers, engineering companies, shipping services and authorities and a largest port in Finland.

Now the city is looking to the next wave of development in the maritime sector. The Mayor of Helsinki, Jan Vapaavuori, tells Seatrade Maritime News: “We are currently going through the rise of the smart maritime cluster, where traditional maritime companies are getting together with technology companies and innovative start-ups.

“The maritime industry is in an extremely exciting stage of development, facing both opportunities and challenges. The core lies in how we are able to benefit from digitalisation.”

Vapaavuori notes that in land based operations they were already at the trial phase of driverless cars and autonomous vehicles, however, only a small fraction of this has been possible in maritime due to technical limitations and difficulties.

This is beginning to change with remotely operated vessels at the concept stage.

“This opens up a fascinating view into the future with big data and open innovation systems, and indeed, into digitalising maritime business,” he says.

In recent years the City of Helsinki has been actively putting together the maritime industry and innovative IT start-up companies. Part of this is the MERIT project which aims to find intelligent solutions for the maritime industries with MERIT acting as a mediator between large corporations and start-ups.

“Helsinki has built a smart maritime cluster with over 100 companies, and this year also a specialized maritime innovation center is starting its operations,” Vapaavuori explains.

Last week the Finnish government and City of Helsinki was in Singapore promoting partnerships and highlighting developments in the data-driven maritime business. These solutions come from both multi-national companies with long histories supplying the maritime industries such as Wärtsilä/ Eniram, Cargotec / Kalmar, Napa, Solita and Vaisala and new companies offering specific solutions to the shipping sector.

“For example Fleetrange is offering cloud solutions for shipping companies in chartering and fleet management. KNL Networks allows data transmission in oceans whenever satellite communication is not possible,” he says.

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