SEA20 – Helsinki and the Future of Maritime: City view & local development. Round table discussion, Mayor’s opening remarks.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The sea has throughout times been a source of identity, power and wealth. Maritime locations have played a profound role on the world stage. Port cities have been in the center of trade, military, logistics, food and international exchange for as long as people have existed on the shores. Oceans are in many ways the earth’s foundation and the mankind’s lifeline. Today, our ability to utilize, protect and develop our maritime ecosystem might be one of the most fundamental and critical actions of our time.

Almost all port cities share the same history. From Venice to Rotterdam cities have been the epicenter of power struggles related to international trade and stood at the forefront of military pushbacks. Maritime logistics have had a profound impact on our ability to develop new innovations. In addition to goods and people ships have always carried ideas.

Helsinki was established as a trading town by King Gustav I of Sweden in 1550 as a rival to the Hanseatic city of Reval – now Tallinn. For the longest time Helsinki remained small and poor. The plague of 1710 killed the greater part of city people. The construction of the naval fortress Sveaborg in the 18th century began to improve Helsinki’s status. In addition to the fortress the relocation of the university from Turku to Helsinki helped to build a small town into a city. The maritime location as a source of identity and power – and ultimately wealth – is an undeniable part of Helsinki’s success.

Despite its relatively small size Helsinki has managed to grow into a substantial harbor city. Helsinki harbor is the busiest international passenger port in Europe. Last year over 12 million passengers passed through it. Over 80 % of Finland’s trade is transported by sea. The recently published The Leading Maritime Capitals of the World 2019 -report has now nominated Helsinki as one of the top maritime cities in the world. Oddly enough, one of our assets have become our challenging weather conditions. If things work in Helsinki, they most likely will flourish anywhere in the world. Many critical maritime innovations have been made here.

As most port cities of the world Helsinki also struggles with the growing demands of the industry and the residential needs of a developing city. Port operations near residential areas have a long tradition and are essential part of port cities’ culture heritage. Urbanisation will increase demand for freight transport and passenger traffic. Ownership of ports also raises questions. In Helsinki the city owns the port but in many cities around the world the case is much different.

Helsinki’s resent efforts to make the archipelago increasingly accessible for the public are convincing. First ever Helsinki Maritime Strategy sets up to find ways to improve the accessibility of maritime areas, develop services in the archipelago and promote seaside events. Helsinki Biennale – inaugurated at Vallisaari next summer – is part of our efforts to utilize the seashore location in a modern way. New sharing economy innovations ensure that more people have access to the water. Preserving natural resources and developing the well-being of the sea go naturally together with our ambition to utilize the maritime identity even more.

Throughout history, Finland has been one of the world leaders in maritime industry. Some of the world’s largest cruise ships and 50% of world’s ice breakers are built in Finland. Finland has also become a recognized leader in smart maritime and marine technology. New innovations and business development are championed in Finland and Helsinki. The legislation is favorable, and we are actively investing in programs boosting, for example, the development of autonomous solutions. One of our key strengths is locally connected ecosystem. An example of this is The One Sea ecosystem – a strategic combination of top research, state-of-the-art information technology and business. Its project aims to create an environment suitable for autonomous ships by 2025. Results can already be seen as successful commercial autonomous shipping trials.

As one of the leading maritime cities in the world Helsinki is an active participant in many maritime networks including the SEA20. Our ambition is to drive sustainable growth and development in a manner that supports sourcing solutions from technological innovation. In line with greater global shift cities are the drivers of this development. In a growing fashion cities implement key strategies and practical solutions to maritime development – together with corporations development has been much more substantial than any government-led efforts in the recent years.

We are currently experiencing a maritime revolution. There is a heightened emphasis on global accountability. Short-range emissions have been the focus of attention, especially when they occur in the heart of residential areas, like here in Helsinki. Fast growing global online shopping has and is changing logistics. Harbor cities must prepare to increasing trade in advance and carefully evaluate how we can support -and control- this increase in a sustainable way. Port of Helsinki has very ambitious environmental targets that are linked with carbon neutral strategy of city of Helsinki. All over the world cities are driving more ambitious targets than nations or international organizations. Our responsibility to our citizens does not allow any other path.

The future of maritime ecosystem requires a holistic view and global collaboration. Helsinki looks forward to working with other SEA20 cities and Wärtsilä to create common maritime city network and drive sustainable, innovation-led growth long into the future. For centuries the mankind has looked to the sea for far-away horizons that aren’t yet within our reach. Let’s make sure, that the sea as a source of identity, power and wealth will be ours also in the generations to come.