The Ice Breaker Group call for action to the Finnish and Swedish Governments regarding the ice breaker issue in a letter, on 13 December. Read the full text below.
Infrastrukturminister Tomas Eneroth, Sveriges regering
Minister of Transport and Communication Timo Harakka, Finish government
The companies who sign this letter represent Swedish and Finnish industry (The Industry Group for Swedish and Finnish Icebreakers, Industrigruppen Svenska och Finska Isbrytare) with leading technologies in shipbuilding, propulsion and energy solutions, system engineering, including shipowners with vast experience in icebound navigation.
This Group was formed in 2018 based on the knowledge that a renewal of the icebreaker capacity of Sweden and Finland in the Gulf of Botnia would become critical in the mid 2020’s.
In the lead up to a formal procurement process of new icebreakers we formulated a number of common objectives we deem are central for the future direction of this task and we hereby invite for a closer collaboration to elaborate on below listed topics.
First and foremost, technology has developed enormously since our last icebreakers were built, and the new generation of icebreakers will have an expected operational life span of approximately 50 years.
This calls for competence and foresight in the design and building of these future proof icebreakers. Designing, engineering and commissioning next generation icebreakers is a process involving not only shipbuilders but also multiple parties providing top of line competence from components, systems, engineering, environmental impact and financial etc.
The participants in our group have demonstrated world class in innovative industrial competence. And we are fully committed to staying on top also henceforward, with considerable investments into R&D.
Secondly, icebreaking is a unique marine competence where new ships will not only help us maintain, but also develop and put to disposal to the Sweden and Finland this ability.
Thirdly, both our Governments have put sustainability on top of the agenda and the maritime transport sector represent a bit more than 2 % of global CO2-emissions. We share the ambition to optimize the environmental aspect of the new fleet should have design focus to achieve lowest possible emissions also during operation. However, this implies not only investing in flexible and top of the line technical solutions of the ships, but also understand that this will entail considerable investments into a nationwide supply network for suitable fuels. Thus, the technological challenge must be at par with the need for new infrastructure call for close collaboration between the states, their industry, designers and builders.
Fourthly, and in the same vein, we expect that more of today’s freight transportation will be transferred to the sea since it is an environmentally conducive way of transportation. With the tremendous development of the industries both in Northern Sweden, Finland and Norway, ice-free shipping will become an important part of the logistic chain. This is why this group also enjoy support from many other stakeholders.
Fifthly, building the breakers in the near proximity or indeed within our countries would create employment and investments. We estimate over 2000 jobs would be created.
In addition, the new Swedish and Finnish breakers will be a reference for future export opportunities in a lucrative, but competitive, global market.
Sixthly, Sweden and Finland share a joint responsibility and are stern supporters of free trade. By also engaging with the industry of our two nations sharing that position, also in practice, securing our common Baltic Sea.
We are proud that we have been able to support research and development in sensitive arctic and subarctic areas. With the decommissioning of Oden, we stand ready ensure this future capability which have rendered Sweden considerable international recognition.
Building new icebreakers requires large scale funding. It is likely the EU can serve as a potential source of co-funding, through the EU funds for a level playfield in transports within the EU.
EU is also in the process of increasing the defense spending for better strategic autonomy. In our contacts with the institutions, EU’s environmental programs would be eligible as a source of funding, together with EU’s spending on technology autonomy, in particular since this would enable EU to maintain world leading know-how. However, this would need a stronger engagement from the Cabinets of our two countries.
During the group’s existence we have felt great support for our case. However, the fairway fees that apply both in Sweden and Finland is a recurring concern, not only in our constellation but across the whole industry. We are now faced with historical increases in transportation costs and logistical disturbances across the globe affecting our competitiveness. If new breakers should be financed via increased fairway fees, governments will not exacerbate and already precarious situation, but in fact effectively impede the transfer to shipping from road and rail. We are open to discuss ideas around private-to-public-partnership (”ppp”) might be offering an interesting opportunity for ”off-balance-sheet” financing etc. No matter the solution, we believe the main funding would have to come from regular state budgets.
We look forward to meeting you and discuss how we best support the shared vision of making our seas open, effective, sustainable and joint.
Rauma Marine Constructions
 NB: The Group is not a commercial consortium, but a group of companies committed to promoting technological and industrial competence and capacity in our countries.