2014 Arctic Technology Conference, Houston, Texas

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I once heard someone here in the US saying that for majority of people, the Arctic is like watching a European soccer game with 22 players and nothing happening. Well, I believe in this conference not all are only American football fans, but agree that soccer and the Arctic is a serious and an interesting business as well. I come from Finland, Northern Europe, from a country of five million people, which is about the same as the state of Wisconsin but we are located above the 60th latitude, just like Alaska.

We Finns represent one third of the people living north of the 60th latitude. We have had to adapt to the conditions prevailing in the arctic. In addition we suffer from very limited own natural resources and a remote location. Therefore focusing on technological advancement has been pivotal to us and it has paid off. We have been ranked high globally in numerous comparisons concerning for example competitiveness and R&D spending per capita. Newsweek even rated our quality of life the best in the world.

Finland might be a small nation, but in the Arctic we are a superpower – at least in one area – tourism. 90 % of the hotel beds in the Arctic area are in Finnish Lapland.

Finland is actually so Arctic that we Finns are certain that Santa Claus doesn’t live in the North Pole but on a mountainside in Finland. And as an Arctic country we have been thrilled that the Arctic has become one of the strategic issues in the world today, especially the opportunities it offers – the natural resources and the Northern Sea Routes. Not to forget that the first one to sail through the North-East Passage was a Finn, renowned explorer and scientist, A.E. Nordenskiöld who made the trip in 1878.

How fast the Arctic is developing, we do not exactly know. Much depends also what happens elsewhere in the world, like the shale revolution here in the US and in our great neighbour Russia. One thing is however certain: we need to be prepared in time. It might also be wise to look at the already existing best practices, such as in the Baltic Sea, that freezes every year.

Like other Arctic nations, our government has an Arctic Strategy. The key message is that one can promote sustainable development, safety and stability, and at the same time pursue economic opportunities. These two are not mutually contradictory or exclusive. This is important to recognize because both of these aspects are gaining importance.

Operating in the Arctic is calling for international partnerships, and also broad-based research. Finland’s extensive and in-depth Arctic expertise is a result of its highly advanced education system, where its position as an Arctic country is taken into account at all levels. Diversified Arctic research is carried out both at higher education institutions and research institutes. The role of the companies is of utmost importance as well.

Additionally, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland operates an extensive network of sites and field stations in northern Finland. In Siberia, research projects are carried out in collaboration with Russia and the United States. We have developed special expertise in areas such as determining the composition of snow, ice and air.

Latest acknowledgement for Finnish research came from Lloyd’s Register Foundation. It has established a Research Centre of Excellence in Arctic Shipping and Operations, which will be headed by Aalto University of Finland. Aalto University is even setting up two new professorships in Arctic Marine Technology, and investing in the Aalto Ice Research Tank to develop a unique international facility.

Finnish environmental technology is suitable for cleaning up the environment in the Arctic and ensuring the efficiency of production facilities and a low level of emissions. And I dare to say this, although we are here in the “Oil Capital of the World”, oil spills represent the most serious risks associated with Arctic shipping and oil drilling. When it comes to mechanical oil recovery in ice conditions, Finnish authorities and companies are at the leading edge of technology. This expertise relate both to research and technology.

The Finnish Government is also about to establish an Arctic chemical and oil spill response research centre. I believe that this centre would greatly benefit from international cooperation and partnerships with active companies. The research centre would not only focus in the mechanical oil spill response technology, but also in preventing accidents. We have a wide range of off-the-shelf export products based on the best practices developed in the freezing Baltic Sea, such as a vessel traffic service, a vessel reporting system, the utilisation of automatic vessel identification and communications system, ice-breaking services and the weather and ice information services provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The extreme conditions of the Arctic Ocean demand extreme vessels and offshore solutions. The know-how of winter seafaring has been and still is a lifeline for Finland – about 80 % per cent of our foreign trade is transported by sea. Finland is also the only country in the world with a freezing sea around the ports every winter. These facts have been a catalyst for Finns to develop innovative Arctic technology and know-how, and related business operations, solutions, and services such as ice-breaking, shipping, and ice-management. Our Baltic Sea has served as a prototype workshop of sorts. We Finns tend to be pessimistic by nature, so we are always prepared for worse and developed our technologies and solutions for even worse conditions.

Over the past ten years, more than 20 Arctic seagoing vessels have been built in the world on the basis of Finnish engineering. And as many of you know, Finland has designed and built more than 60 % of all icebreakers in the world. Our newest ice breaker will be delivered by 2016 and it will be the first of its kind in the world to be equipped with LNG dual fuel engine and oil-spill response equipment. Finland will not forget environmental factors during harsh winter either.

Finnish icebreakers with Finnish crew have also operated in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea to ensure that the circumstances for operations are safe.

Besides the arctic technology and special vessels, Finnish offshore-related know-how includes ports and terminals, ship on-board cargo solutions, spar platform hulls, advanced offshore structures, technical solutions and systems and solutions needed for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly maritime operations. Some of our companies, who are also present in the Conference exhibition, have developed state-of-the-art ship solutions, which have become a kind of industry standards for Arctic operations.

Further, construction of infrastructure such as roads and ports in the Arctic demand a certain kind of know-how – or should I say snow-how. Finnish companies have also solid expertise in construction in Arctic conditions and wish to harmonise the relevant standards.

Also new types of services are required to facilitate safe transportation and contribute to the preservation of the marine environment. Forecasting models based on the environment, weather, ice movements and the climate create a basis for commercial services which, in turn, help reduce the uncertainties and risks associated with the Arctic maritime environment.

Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation has just launched a 100 million euro and a three-year Arctic Seas programme which aims at speeding up the development and introduction of new products and services in the markets. The key business areas of the programme are environmental technology, Arctic and other maritime transport, offshore industry, maritime industry and new business based on Arctic expertise. Also the Academy of Finland, a scientific research agency has launched a parallel arctic scientific research programme. These programs call for international cooperation and you are welcome to join the Finnish arctic cluster for your R&D needs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am convinced that you will find interesting cooperation partners from Finnish arctic experts who are here today with me. Aker Arctic Technology is world leading designer of icebreakers, ice-going vessels and arctic offshore structures and it has also privately owned ice model testing facility. Arctia Shipping carries over 100 years of icebreaking and ice management know-how. It owns and operates the Finnish icebreaker fleet and has also been taking part in ice-management services in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea. Lamor Corporation a Finnish specialist in oil spill recovery equipment and services. In addition to protecting Gulf of Mexico, the company also has a high level of expertise in oil spill equipment for use in cold climates.

The Finnish Meteorological Institute is one of the world’s leading meteorological institutions that produces high-quality observational data and research findings on the atmosphere and seas, for example on determining the thickness of sea ice cover. It also conducts research on remote sensing and forecast models for sea ice, and develops charting methods and ice forecasts. I believe this event offers a fruitful platform to enhance the existing ties between our experts and increase mutual awareness of opportunities for new co-operation.

The potential of the Arctic is huge. But so are the risks. Any bigger mistake of anyone may cause severe damage for all of us. It is therefore in the interest of everyone that the best possible technology and know-how is widely spread out. This is why we need a comprehensive approach and good international cooperation.

The number of genuinely Arctic nations is limited. A serious and pragmatic dialogue, interaction and cooperation between us all as well as a working public-private partnership could and should not be underestimated in our joint effort to utilise the opportunities of the Arctic in a economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way.


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