Beyond Helsinki’s stunning oceanic horizon lies a myriad of hidden, unspoiled islands just waiting to be explored. A mosaic of narrow channels and passages the archipelago is a sight to behold from the city’s coastline and yet it is only enjoyed upfront by the privileged few who have access to private boats. With the help of the City of Helsinki’s Maritime Strategy Project, this is about to change.
An idea has been forming. A vision of a smart, energy efficient, waterborne and carbon-neutral passenger transportation system. A system that Ulla Tapaninen, Head of Unit, Enterprise Services at City of Helsinki, hopes will better connect the mainland with the islands, allowing for residents and tourists alike to better utilize and enjoy the true beauty that the region has to offer.
Many forward-thinking cities such as London, Amsterdam, New York have long used river and sea transportation as a means for commuting between business, tourist and residential areas. Yet, why hasn’t this thinking been adopted sooner here?
Helsinki recently became a member of the SEA20, an international network of the world’s foremost Smart and Ecologically-Ambitious marine cities, dedicated to the radical transformation of the marine and energy industries into one supremely efficient, ecologically sound, digitally connected and collaborative ecosystem. This network is enabled by Wärtsilä, and for this reason the city partnered with the Smart Tech company to co-host an event exploring the pathway toward a prospective new future; ‘HORIZONS – TOWARDS A ZERO-EMISSION MARITIME CITY JOURNEY’
On 17th April 2019 the City of Helsinki and Wärtsilä co-hosted the event at Tapahtumatori. The primary goal was to bring together key stakeholders in this city’s ecosystem under one roof to discuss the idea of introducing a waterborne and carbon-neutral passenger transportation system here in Helsinki and to ideate the possible strategies as to how, collectively, we can bring this idea to life. A rich mix of representatives hailing from Neste, Demos Helsinki and Helen – to name but a few organisations – shared not only their views on the biggest opportunities to be yielded from maritime but brought to the table their expertise, tools and technologies that will help bring the idea to life.
Public transportation, when compared with private means, will be more commonly used for commuting in the future, with more focus on rails, wheels and even water. As urban populations continue to swell, we’re seeing a gradual shift away from personally owned modes of transportation towards mobility solutions that are consumed on demand and as a service. The maritime transportation industry is gearing up to keep pace with the changing needs of cities. Marine and Energy industry heavyweights attended the event to explore the means for rolling out an investment-friendly, environmentally sound and seaborne passenger transportation system in Helsinki.
To lay the right foundations, big questions need to be tackled first. How do we guarantee protection of the archipelago’s biodiversity? How can the city produce the energy required to meet commuter needs in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way? Emissions, fuel consumption, waiting times in ports all call for our close attention. Connecting smart vessels to smart ports is one thing, but the city also needs to create the right infrastructure to support a clean energy supply chain.
Wärtsilä envisions an ecosystem that powers seagoing vessels through a carbon-neutral grid, by supplying electricity for shore power with charging facilities suitable for electric and hybrid vessels. Together with the event participants, the city was able to explore the potential steps and key building blocks needed to pave the way towards a carbon-neutral port ecosystem.
But there’s nothing like a hard deadline to get the creative juices flowing. In 2020 Helsinki will hold a maritime biennale for public art, to be held on seafronts and islands. Surely, the best way to experience this will be via a waterborne public transportation system that is at one with the surrounding nature. What kind of operational framework is required to enable a smart, safe and environmentally-sound fleet of passenger ferries in Helsinki? How can the city ensure an on-demand, zero-noise, zero GHG emissions and optimized commuter voyage through the beautiful archipelago? How best to connect these smart vessels to smart ports to allow for a seamless city journey?
The ambition levels are high, but collectively, city stakeholders have the skills to achieve this. This event serves as a fantastic reminder that by looking beyond one’s established networks and by collaborating with new players, we can innovate and bring great ideas to life.
The future of urban commuting is in the making – Want in? Be ready to roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Let’s make this happen, together!