• 2020 January 29

    Overflowing cruises

    Baltic cruise companies are responding to new trends and developing new routes while building ships powered by alternative fuels. Tallink is set to arrange annual calls to Saint-Petersburg, Viking – polar voyages and ecotourism.

    A window to Europe for tourists from Asia

    The world is changing rapidly and the cruise and ferry industry of the Baltic area is responding to those changes. Among the key trends is the growing number of tourists from Asia, enhancing tourism appeal of Saint-Petersburg, increasing number of solo travelers and interest to poorly developed locations like the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Great Lakes. In terms of technologies, they include construction of alternatively fueled ships, reduction of fuel consumption, power supply from onshore facilities.

    “Among the key trends of the global tourism notable in the Baltic Sea today is travelling within the region of residence. Those living along the Baltic shores are increasingly active in exploring places of interest within their and neighboring countries. Also, more and more attention is paid to the environment”, comments Marco Palmu, Director, Representative Office of Tallink Silja Line in Russia.

    According to him, travelers from Asia are getting more frequent participants of cruises. In 2019, the number of tourists from non-departure countries of Tallink and Silja Line reached 1 million.

    Another trend is the development of a so-called “price tourism” based on the difference of prices in various countries. This trend has already led to a considerable growth of a tourist flow from Helsinki to Tallinn which made Viking announce additional departures on the route. Due to the fast and easy connections from both Helsinki and Tallinn, people are finding it a convenient way to get the products, services and fun experiences they are looking for, says the ferry operator.

    Kaj Takolander, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Viking Line, says that “ The shopping opportunities in Tallinn have developed rapidly and many travellers are simply looking to expand their shopping experiences. The Porto Franco centre being built near the Viking Line terminal will further increase the possibilities. Tallinn also has a great range of restaurant options and temptingly inexpensive prices. Nowadays, simply having lunch in a good restaurant is reason enough for many to travel to Tallinn for the day”.

    Moreover, the number of independent travelers who prefer not to acquire any special tourism packages. In this case, with all other factors being equal, night onboard a ship will let save on accommodation and transport needed for visiting different cities.

    The development of cruise tourism on the Baltic Sea does not keep away from Russia which undertakes considerable efforts to simplify the procedure of entering Saint-Petersburg for tourists travelling on seagoing vessels. The interest of cruise and ferry operators to the city is growing indeed: in 2020, Tallink’s Silja Europa is expected to make four calls at Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg “Marine Façade” (two of them will be arranged under a voyage charter specially for football matches involving the national team of Finland).

    “A special cruise to Saint-Petersburg will hopefully become annual among summer cruises of Tallink and Silja Line”, Marco Palmu told IAA PortNews. 

    Meanwhile, the city authorities are set to make Saint-Petersburg a cruise start and end port apart from its status of a port of call. That makes sense given that the city on the Neva river is the highest cultural and historical treasure in the region and it is a large hub with population exceeding those of other Baltic cities.

    In November 2019, Passenger Port of Saint-Petersburg “Marine Façade” and Terra Nova signed an agreement under which PP of SPb MF takes the ownership of two land plots with a total area of 54,691 square meters. These land plots will be used to develop the port’s infrastructure to create on its basis a cruise start and end port. There is also a plan to build the second single point mooring by the navigation season of 2020 – that will let increase the length of berths No 6 and No7 to 771 meters.

    A project on establishment of a Saint-Petersburg based shipping company and construction of a cruise for operation in low season is under consideration.

    To deliver tourists to the city center they are looking into involvement of battery powered passenger ships that can replace hydrofoils of Meteor type (Krylov State Research Center has prepared proposals on designing high-speed displacement-type ships to replace the Meteors). Read our earlier article covering those plans >>>>.

    Other shores

    Environment has recently become a priority on the global agenda. That is not just about reduction of hazardous emissions from ships but also about the surging interest to ecotourism. This niche is being particularly considered by cruise operators of the Baltic region. Finland based operator Viking has announced plans to launch a new expedition product, called Viking Expeditions by 2022. In addition to itineraries in the Antarctica and in the Arctic, the brand will also sail to the Great Lakes, as the two new ships planned will be built small enough to navigate the Welland Canal Locks. 

    As a matter of fact, ecocruises are not alien to Russian companies. In 2020, shipping company Sozvezdiye is set to arrange two seven-day cruises on the Baikal lake (in June and in September). The lake will be crossed from the south to the north on a chartered ship named Imperiya, the largest passenger ship operating on the Baikal. In 2021, there will be four voyages on the Baikal. Apart from that, the expedition cruises are considered for other lakes and rivers of Russia and other countries.

    As for the Arctic, nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy has long been deployed for such cruises. Actually, involvement of an icebreaker for that purpose is a necessity rather than preference since dedicated passenger ships of Arctic class are required for full-fledged cruises.

    United Shipbuilding Corporation earlier said it was looking into building Arctic cruise vessels with a capacity of 150-200 people each. According to USC President Aleksey Rakhmanov, the market of Arctic cruise tourism is estimated at $6 billion per year.

    Victor Olersky, BoD Chairman, Helsinki Shipyard (Finland) said in September 2019 that the company  would build two cruise liners for the Arctic and Antarctic. According to him, construction of such vessels in Europe is quite promising since it requires specific competence, which is often not sufficient at cheaper Asian shipyards.

    Technical issues

    With environment being all the rage and new requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and national legislation affecting the cruise segment, passenger fleet operators place their stake on either diesel fuel or alternative fuels and electric propulsion. For example, Tallink’s new ferry Megastar is running on liquefied natural gas (LNG). The company has commenced construction of the second gas-powered ferry, MyStar. Both ships are of dual-fuel design. Interestingly, it is Russian LNG from Cryogas-Vysotsk facility in the Leningrad Region that is used for bunkering of the ferry. As the company told IAA PortNews, all ships to be built for it in the future will operate on LNG.

    Viking has also focused on LNG. The company put into operation its LNG-powered ferry Viking Grace back in 2013 with the new ship running on gas laid down in summer in China. The ferry named Viking Glory will be launched into service on the Turku-Åland-Stockholm route in 2021.

    Stena Line, in its turn, has become a pioneer in using methanol on ferries. Its Stena Germanica equipped with a dual fuel engine has been using methanol as a fuel on a daily basis from 2018, allowing for reduction of SOx and NOx emissions. Another Stena Line’s ferry, Stena Jutlandica, was converted to a battery hybrid vessel the same year. The company plans it to be able to cover the 50 nautical miles between Sweden and Denmark solely on electrical power. Stena Jutlandica operates on the Gothenburg-Frederikshavn route.

    Read more about environmentally friendly fuels in IAA PortNews article >>>>

    Apart from using alternative fuels, ferry operators undertake measures to reduce fuel consumption. For example, Stena Line is set to reduce fuel consumption by 2.5 % per nautical mile annually with its artificial intelligence (AI) technology. In 2018, Stena Line equipped the first vessel, Stena Scandinavica, with AI technology taking into consideration several factors, such as weather, depth, speed and wind in a variety of combinations.  When assisted by AI a captain or officer can improve how to optimize fuel quicker.

    Tallink says it has reduced fuel consumptions by over 3% through application of some innovative technical solutions like optimization of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning System (HVAC) and other ones.

    One more environment protection measure is the supply of power from onshore electric stations to ships staying in ports. “A shore-to-ship power supply system is used in cooperation with the key ports of call regularly visited by Tallink ships. Four ferries calling at the Port of Stockholm already apply this solution with the Port of Tallinn set to offer this opportunity from 2020. Then the Port of Helsinki will join the programme allowing for a considerable reduction of emissions from ships staying in the ports”, says Tallink.

    Of course, onshore power stations are used by other operators as well. Stena Line says they will let reduce CO2 emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 7,500 passenger cars. Presently, 14 of the company’s ships and six of the terminals operated by Stena Line are equipped with electric shore power supply. Discussions are underway for further installations in Denmark and Germany.

    Thus, ferry and cruise shipping is actively developing in the Baltic Sea in compliance with the recent trends. It is high time for Saint-Petersburg to get actively involved as well.

    Vitaly Chernov