Lolan Eriksson, Senior Adviser, Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communication, welcome to Zero Vision Tool radio, interviewing at the Motorways of the Sea conference in Gothenburg. Can you please introduce yourself and your role at Motorways of the Sea?
First of all, thank you, I am very pleased to be here in Gothenburg and specifically, at this conference. I have been working for the Ministry for the past two to three years with issues relating to green technology and fuels to reduce emissions from ships, and that is the focus of the conference today, so I am really enthusiastic about the event.
What is your experience of the conference so far?
I heard that there are a lot of people participating, a lot of interest and people standing in queues to come in, so it is exciting and I think very valuable to have presentations about real projects that are going on now, innovation becoming practical projects and so on. I think that the sharing of experience and information is very important, so I really hope that we have more conferences like this in the future.
Can you tell us about your keynote speech on the topic ‘The Roadmap for Baltic Sea Sustainable Shipping’?
Yes, that is my favourite subject nowadays. It builds very much on the concept of public-private cooperation. We have many challenges in the maritime sector: new environmental rules are entering into force from 1 January next year, and in general, shipping is not a very profitable business sector just now due to the financial crisis, the aftermath of the crisis, not as much goods transportation, low freight rates and so on. It is a really challenging time, but by working together with the administration, the business and the financing people, we can find solutions, and that is important. We can. We should not just say ‘oh, this is terrible’. We can find solutions, and I really think that this conference is a place that shows that we can find solutions if we work together.
So the roadmap you asked about, it is something that was developed by the Baltic Sea players, all the stakeholders together at a seminar held aboard Viking Grace, which is LNG-fuelled and operates between Stockholm and Turku in Finland. At the seminar we wanted to identify, together with all of the participants, the key issues that we needed to focus on, what should be done, who should do what, the timeframe, etc. and so this is a kind of tool for a structured dialogue between all the players. So I am very pleased that – I hope at least! – the roadmap will be a living tool, we will add new things, some things have been finalised so we can delete them from the list, but it will be a living tool and help us to focus on jointly identified core issues.
What is your view on shipping for the development of the Baltic region?
Shipping is very important, and coming from Finland… Finland is actually an island, and about 90% of our imports and exports are transported by sea, so shipping is really the only option for us. We would like to see efficient transport links, environmentally friendly transport links and of course, safe transport links at sea. But when you also look at the other Baltic Sea states, such as St Petersburg in Russia with a population of five million people, there is a lot of need for good transportation, and so I think that shipping will always be very important to the Baltic Sea region, also bearing in mind that there are around 85 million people living around the Baltic Sea depending on how you count them.
There is also a lot of potential for the business sector, to see if they can come up with efficient and inexpensive shipping services. There will be a lot of demand for that, so I think that there are many opportunities. I recently asked a ship owner who has been retired for a couple of years what he would do if he was given EUR 50–70 million, and he said that he would invest in shipping in the Baltic Sea. Immediately, without any preamble. So that shows the potential.