“Together we are stronger”
WALLENIUS SOL operates a service with RoRo vessels from Swedish and Finnish ports in the Gulf of Bothnia to the continent and England. Behind the joint venture are Wallenius Lines and Svenska Orient Linien, SOL. “Together we are stronger,” says Jonas Wåhlin, General Manager at WALLENIUS SOL.
A NEW SHIPPING COMPANY has been formed. Through the venture both parties, Wallenius Lines and SOL, want to expand the infrastructure in the Baltic Sea for Swedish and Finnish base industry. Initially the newly formed shipping company has focused on customers within the forestry industry. Stora Enso, Metsä Board and BillerudKorsnäs are on the list of customers. In the Gulf of Bothnia WALLENIUS SOL is the first actor to deliver a truly industrial and commercial solution for transporting paper.
“Historically all forestry companies have had their own systems and ships. This was a good idea at a time of increasing volumes. Now that the demand for newsprint has fallen dramatically, many have turned their focus to packaging board.
As this involves lower volumes, the companies benefit from co-loads. At the same time, we have to consider the competitive situation that prevails between the different forestry companies,” says Jonas Wåhlin, General Manager, WALLENIUS SOL.
Jonas knows the industry well. Back in 1998 he took employment with Stora Enso to work internally with line operations. When the company transferred its operative shipping to SOL in 2009, Jonas chose to move with it.
“We see a growth in the Baltic Sea region due to the change from newsprint to board. There are very large investment plans among the forestry companies that will ensure large volumes for a long time to come. Cardboard require fibers from slowly growing trees. The northern region is optimal for the purpose. There is hardly anything up in the north but spruce trees,” says Jonas Wåhlin.
As SOL has operated line traffic in the Baltic Sea since 2009, they bring good customer relations and valuable market know-how into the new company. It is not unusual that the cold weather, with ice cover for four months of the year, disrupts the traffic. If a journey takes 48 hours in the summer, then it can take up to 60 hours in the winter.
“Since the customers are looking for a reliable service, we prepare for traffic disruptions during the winter. The forestry industry is particular in that the loads are both heavy and sensitive. We therefore create the right conditions to deliver with high quality,” says Jonas Wåhlin.
That WALLENIUS SOL now creates a service that the customers want is no coincidence. There are many ships that will shortly exit their charter, and several agreements for terminals are about to end. At the same time large investments are being made in the region.
“In five years, it would have been too late. But we, together with our customers, have identified the right situation. However, we could not have done this on our own. We needed a partner with experience of industrial shipping that can build environmentally sma RoRo vessels. The joint venture between Wallenius and SOL is a partnership that will work out well as we have the same view of how we wish to operate,” says Jonas Wåhlin.
Wallenius has vast experience of partnerships with equal ownership. Among others, they co-own Wallenius Wilhelmsen ASA together with the Norwegian maritime industry group Wilh. Wilhelmsen and also co-own United European Car Carrier together with Japanese NYK.
“We are used to long-term partnerships where collaboration creates unique strengths. The investment in WALLENIUS SOL is something we believe strongly in. We can contribute with our expertise in an extremely interesting industry,” says Anders Thyberg, Senior Vice President at Wallenius Lines and board member of WALLENIUS SOL. He continues:
“Both SOL and Wallenius are experts on industrial shipping and we complement each other well. In this collaboration SOL primarily contribute with commercial and operational knowledge. Our competence within ship design, new building, shipowning including financing, and efficient ship management will contribute to the success of WALLENIUS SOL.”
Wallenius has, for some time, been on the leading edge in terms of designing and building environmentally smart vessels. During the last 25 years they have built some 70 RoRo vessels. “Of course, everyone claims to think about the environment. The fact is that Wallenius was early with the insight that environmental sustainability also benefited financials,” says Anders Thyberg. Initially the service will traffic the Gulf of Bothnia with five vessels, but within a few years up to four of these will be replaced by newly built vessels. To minimise the risks of traffic disruptions even during difficult ice conditions, the vessels will have the highest Swedish-Finnish ice class 1A Super. The vessels will be 240 metres long and will be built to the highest possible environmental performance with LNG operation. They will be as efficient and adapted to the environmental requirements that prevail today as in 35 years from now. They will be prepared to run on fossil-free fuels, such as biogas. The new vessels have double the capacity compared with today, with less environmental impact.
Fully developed, WALLENIUS SOL’s service will offer traffic with at least two departures per week to and from each port.
“For individual customers this will mean strengthened competitiveness and we hope that many more will follow. Together we facilitate each other’s success,” says Jonas Wåhlin.