“This is why our new shipping company will be a success”
What began as an idea in a port in Kotka has now, after ten years, resulted in a completely new Swedish shipping company. The ambition is to secure long-term infrastructure for the industry in the Gulf of Bothnia.
THE TINY SEED of what is now the newly formed WALLENIUS SOL started to sprout some ten years ago. Ragnar Johansson, the then newly appointed CEO of SOL North Europe Service, started to study how transport services looked within the forestry industry. Soon he noticed a specific pattern.
“When visiting Finnish Kotka, I saw two small RoRo vessels lying side by side. They both had products from the forestry industry in the hold and the same final destination, Bilbao in northern Spain. It did not seem optimal.”
Ragnar quickly noted that the flows from the forestry industry in Sweden and Finland follow a clear pattern. All stakeholders ship to the same three main areas in Europe: Northern Germany, the ARA area (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp) and England, but to slightly different ports and terminals.
“I thought that this must be possible to coordinate in a better way and ever since then thoughts about developing a solution have been on my mind. A few years ago, we noted that an opportunity for change will arise in 2021. Several charter and terminal contracts will expire and there is also a need to update the fleet in the Gulf of Bothnia. No vessels adapted for the forestry industry have been built for at least 15 years,” he points out.
With insights combining with a time for a possible change, SOL started to sketch out a solution. A key to changing old structures was building new ships; in order to increase efficiency large vessels are needed.
“We realized that this was not something we could solve ourselves. We therefore contacted Wallenius who have the knowledge and experience we were looking for. It is also important to find a long-time companion that we can enter partnership with, and we knew that Wallenius had previously done this. In addition, we have many similarities that mean that we match each other: both parties are privately owned, have a long-term approach and we like industrial shipping.”
Wallenius and SOL have now worked intensively together for one and a half years. April 12, 2019 was the start date for the new company WALLENIUS SOL, which is now owned in equal parts by Wallenius and SOL (Svenska Orient Linien).
“It feels really good now that we are up and running and we have quickly received very positive feedback from alot of people in the business,” says Ragnar Johansson.
There is no doubt that a long-term infrastructure for the industry in the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea region is a future investment. The forest is a raw material for the future. Wood fiber is recyclable and can soon be used for as many different purposes as oil. Forestry companies are moving further north, as the raw material is there, but they also need effective shipping solutions as it is a long way between the northern Bothnian Bay and the continent.
“What we wish to achieve now is a new efficient infrastructure for the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea over the next few decades. No stakeholder has been able to do this alone, but this is something we create and develop together with our customers,” says Ragnar Johansson.
Collaboration with advantages
Strong competitiveness for base industry in Sweden and Finland
Increased vitality for local communities around the Gulf of Bothnia
World class environmental approach
Reduced environmental impact with the help of new vessels
Link to the continent
Improved possibility of transport services from the continent to northern Sweden and Finland
Ragnar Johansson in brief
NAME: Ragnar Johansson
TITLE: CEO WALLENIUS SOL
AGE: 58 years
FAMILY: Married to Anette for thirty years. Two children, Daniel and Anna.
LEISURE TIME: Is preferably devoted to being in Mollösund and the surrounding area, ideally on the water.
BACKGROUND: Born and raised in Mollösund on the Swedish west coast. Went to sea at the age of 17, studied to sea captain and graduated in 1986. Worked as a mate for a number of years. Responsible for the construction of new port facilities for Stena Line in 1994 and then responsible for all ports and terminals in Stena Line’s Scandinavian ports. Continued as line director for several of Stena Line’s lines between 1998 and 2008 before becoming head of Stena Line’s Scandinavian Ship management. In 2009 he became CEO of SOL North Europe Service and in 2014 group managing director of Svenska Orient Linien AB. He has also been a member of the Swedish Shipowners’ Association’s board since 2010, and chairman from 2016 to 2019.