Tough winter conditions – a useful reminder
Only three months ago, it looked like we were facing another mild winter with only limited impact on the shipping industry. However, King Bore (a fairy tale character who is believed to be the ruler of cold and northern winds) decided to show us what a normal Finnish winter should look like. The sudden change in the outdoor temperature speeded up the ice formation, and in just a few weeks we saw ice-restrictions in practically all Finnish ports – a good reminder of why we still have to base our fleet on ice classed tonnage.
At the same time as the winter conditions have been slowing down the operations, our contract cargo coverage have increased remarkably compared to last winter. Considering the circumstances, we have managed to meet our contractual obligations fairly well, thanks to a solid proactive operational work. A big thank you also goes to all our customers who have showed flexibility and support for finding creative solutions for the common best in these challenging circumstances.
Although the spring is now progressing fast in the southern parts of Finland, winter conditions and ice-restrictions will still remain for a while, especially in the northern ports. Hence it´s reasonable to predict that this year, the market for ice-classed vessels will remain firm far beyond the Easter.
The last months have indeed been a useful ”brush-up course” in winter trade, which I would say, we passed with good grades. Although I guess we all welcome the spring and open waters, we every now and then need these conditions to keep up our skills and readiness, which makes us a reliable shipping partner all around the year.
Wishing you a nice Easter holiday and a lovely springtime!
After a few years’ break this year there’s quite a hard ice situation in the Northern Baltic. For people ashore the cold and ice are welcome, but for ships hard winter conditions mean many difficulties. One of our captains, Thord Vaenerberg tells about winter operations at sea:
"In the winter everything becomes more difficult: the ice makes it difficult for the ship to move and the slippery decks are a challenge for people. There’s more work to do and operations take more time. Besides removing of ice and snow, cleaning of the hold is challenging. Although it might be -20 degrees outside, the hold needs to be washed and dried. To do this, the hold needs to be warmed up and the hatches must be closed, but on the other hand moisture should be evaporated out. Sometimes this seems impossible, but so far we have always succeeded. Finns are professionals in winter navigation, and this is clearly our strength at Meriaura", says Thord.
In wintertime, ships are also dependent on the icebreakers’ timetables. "We have been lucky with m/v 'Eeva VG', we have had to wait for icebreaking assistance only for some moments. Arriving at the pier is the slowest part. In summertime, taking the ship alongside the pier takes about 5 to 10 minutes. In ice it will easily take 2 – 3 hours to drive away the ice between the quay and the ship. Sometimes tug assistance is needed."
Risks grow in heavy ice. Ships are often forced to drive in a convoy because the lane closes quickly. Collisions can happen more easily. A good example of that was Aura’s collision last week. Dealing with facing traffic in the narrow lane is also very challenging.
All in all The Captain is very happy with his EcoCoaster vessel even during wintertime. An additional power-take-in-system improves the ship's mobility in ice significantly. He is also grateful for the good cooperation with the Finnish icebreakers. But luckily spring is almost here.
Introducing our staff: Safety & Quality Manager Thomas Friis, 44
When did you start at VG-Shipping?
During the early summer in 2015 when I was enjoying summer holidays from my job as maritime teacher, I had discussion with the VG-Shipping Management about the possibility to start working for VG-Shipping. Time passed and on the warmest Friday in July, I was offered a position. After some arrangements I was then able to start working at VG-Shipping in September 2015.
What were you doing first?
My first position was Crewing Manager. The job kicked off with an interesting first year, with two EcoCoasters being delivered in 2016. These two ships increased the sea personnel with almost 30 seafarers. This was a great opportunity to be involved in the HR process from the start, to build up two new ships with a new and eager crew.
What are your duties now?
Now I work as Safety & Quality Manager since December 2017. Safety & Quality is an area of the business that requires a fair bit of learning for me. But I consider this a great opportunity to develop myself simultaneously while developing the safety culture at VG-Shipping.
What do you like the most in your work?
To work with all the people (office and ships) and to feel that one’s work makes a difference.
Describe your career before coming to Meriaura Group
My background is from the sea. I worked at various vessels as an officer for about 11 years. First sailing worldwide on cruise vessels before returning to local waters on passenger-car ferries. This gave me a good experience that was useful when I started working as VTS-operator. To monitor vessel traffic was not my cup of tea and I moved on quite quickly, and soon I found myself as maritime teacher/lecturer at AboaMare. For four years I was teaching before I started at VG-Shipping. I must admit I miss the long summer holidays =)
Tell something about your family
My family includes my wife Mikaela, and our two children Edith (12) and Thor (10). And to make it even more fun we have two dogs, a six-year-old Labrador and two years ago followed a Coton de Tuléar.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
A fair bit of my spare time we spend with the family at our summer place in the archipelago. Otherwise I am keen on doing any sport activity or being out in the nature hunting.