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History timeline


The Finnish merchant fleet had suffered massive losses during World War II and the state of the fleet was at its lowest point in 1945. 


Finnlines was founded in 1947 to serve the Finnish export and import industries. The company purchased six old steamships, of which three (Wille, Kalle and Eero) were placed in European service.


The service to the United States started when the steamship Tornator left Rauma, carrying pulp and paper to cross the Atlantic and to call Portland in Maine. SS Hamina and SS Pankakoski also operated in the US service.



In the 1950’s new ships were built as new routes were launched and the business expanded.


Construction of the first new Finnlines vessel, Finntrader, was completed. As early as 1953, two sister vessels, Finnpulp and Finnsailor, were delivered. The vessels carried forest industry products from Southern Finland to the United States.  The cargo on the return voyage to Finland consisted of general cargo and coal.


Liner Service to the United Kingdom started when Finnlines opened its own general cargo line from London and Hull to Southern Finland. The vessels  Wille, Kalle and Eero carried sawn goods and pulp from Finland to the UK and coal back.


SS Kalle


MS Finnmerchant


The US-bound fleet expanded with Finnmerchant in 1956, Finnboard in 1958 and Finnbirch and Finnstar  in 1959. 


The 1960's were characterised by shipbuilding activity, mainly to meet the demand for the East Coast US services. At the end of the 1960's, a cargo-handling system called Finnflow was developed and the first ro-ro vessels Finncarrier, Hanz Gutzeit and Finnfellow were built. Containers became common in Western Europe and US services from the late 1960's onwards and for this reason Finnlines' vessels were lengthened to add special holds for containers. 


A trade war between Finnlines, FÅA (Finland Steamship Company) and United Baltic Corporation on the US route began and an agreement was made to rationalise the business.


Finnlines opened a line to Spain and Italy. More vessels, like Finnalpino, were ordered and transferred from the US routes to serve the Mediterranean routes. The Hansa Express inaugurated Finnlines' passenger and car ferry service in 1962, operating between Hanko, Gotland and Travemünde. In the fall of 1963, the port of departure was changed to Helsinki.


MS Finnhansa


The German passenger and car ferry service proved to be a success and a new ship for the Hansa route was ordered. Three vessels of about 7,000 dwt were completed at Emden, while Finnlines' owners had nine ships built in Turku (in 1964 and 1965), five of which were set in the US liner service.

Finnlines also started ocean cruises in 1965, departing from Helsinki to call Genoa via several intermediate ports and then continuing to the Eastern Mediterranean, Dakar and Lisbon.

The liner services to the United States expanded and continued towards the Gulf of Mexico.


Two new vessels, Finnhansa and Finnpartner, began to sail to Germany via Sweden. A special chemical tanker MT Finnlark was built  for Enso-Gutzeit and a year later, a special vessel MS Tyysterniemi was designed by Finnlines to transport sulphuric acid.


MS Finnpartner

1968–1969  Eight vessels were lengthened in 1968 and 1969 (Finneagle, Finnclipper, Finnforest, Finnboston, Finnhawk, Finnarrow, Finnmaid and Finn-Enso built in 1964-1965), while the five oldest liners were sold. MS Finnpartner. which had been operating on the German route, was sold as two ships on the same route was found  to be unprofitable. 


In the 1970's, the US exports to Europe grew vigorously. In the early 1970's, a series of three 14,270 dwt multipurpose "universal super liners" (Finn-Amer, Finnbuilder and Finnsailor) were built at Emden. The Finnlines fleet was sailing all over the world: in the polar waters as well as the Middle-East.


Companies were acquired and merged and  new lines were opened to the Gulf of Mexico in co-operation with Ab Svenska Amerika Linien.

The Finnlines cruise programme took passengers to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and West Africa. The programme consisted of 23 cruises and called a total of 27 ports. Finnlines' vessels also operated to and from the Arctic Islands of Canada in the North West passage. 1973  

MS Finnmaster (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)


A chartered vessel, Finnmaster, carried 4,500 tons of material for oil drilling, such as piping and cement, to Resolute Bay by the Northwest passage, a place the Canadians call "the top of the world". 


Finnlines and FÅA (Finland Steamship Company) established a joint marketing company, Oy Finncarriers Ab, to take over freight services in the Baltic and in the North Sea. Owing to an excess number of operators, the US line was terminated. The bulk carrier Finntimber was the first Finnlines vessel to operate in polar waters. In 1976, it called Marmorilik, one of the northernmost ports in Greenland, to load zinc ore and lead ore for Antwerp, Belgium,  and Ykspihlaja, Finland.


MS Finntimber (Photo from Skyfotos)


GTS Finnjet (Photo from Matti Pietikäinen)

1977 The gas-turbine vessel GTS Finnjet was delivered and MS Finlandia was rebuilt as a cruise ship and renamed MS Finnstar. It was the first and the only ship meant purely for cruising.

With a Saudi Arabian partner, Finnlines started traffic to the Middle East under the name Finnlines-Sisco Middle East Cargo Services. Finn-Enso left Hamburg for Dubai, Dammam and Khorramshahr in the Persian Gulf and was soon followed by three semi-container vessels from the Atlantic traffic (Finnmaid, Finnarrow and Finnhawk).


MS Finnsailor (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)

1979 Finnlines ended co-operation with the Saudi partner and resumed operating independently under the name Finnlines Europe–Middle East Cargo Service.


The decade saw the end of Finnlines’ cruise program as well as Enso-Gutzeit’s shipping activities. 

Finnlines’ cruise programme in the Mediterranean  ended and the Finnstar was sold. Finnlines' traffic to the Middle East was not profitable and during the Iraq-Iran war the traffic ended. The superliners (Finn-Amer, Finnbuilder and Finnsailor) were set up for sail.


Easy life on board MS Finnstar (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)


MS Finn-Amer


The gas-turbine vessel Finnjet was rebuilt to operate more efficiently. In 1982, Enso-Gutzeit started to withdraw from shipping and 75% of the capital stock of Finnlines were sold to other shipping companies. All the vessels sailing under Finncarriers were sold to Effoa (former FÅA, Finland Steamship Company) and Neste Oy. All Enso-Gutzeit’s Finncarriers shares were sold to Effoa and Finncarriers became Effoa’s subsidiary.

The Finnlines fleet traded in the Antarctic after a charterparty had been signed with the government of India.  1983–1985 

MS Finnpolaris and Adelien penguins in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica (Photo from Kalevi Sundqvist)


GTS Finnjet


The Finnlines passenger services ceased for several years when Enso-Gutzeit sold its last vessel, GTS Finnjet.

By the time the Finntimber (built in 1975) was sold in 1987, she had visited more than 150 ports, including Little Cornwallis Island in Arctic Canada near the magnetic North Pole. The vessel's seven circumnavigations  in the world during her 12 years in the Scanscot freight pool was the Finnish record at the time. 1987


MS Finntimber berthed at Little Cornwallis Island in Arctic Canada (Photo from Jan Lindroos)


A decision to start a lorry and train ferry service between Finland and Sweden was made and FinnLink was founded  in 1989.  Effoa decided to separate its cargo services and the relevant company holdings.



After a series of mergers, diffusions and name changes, the Finnlines Group Oy Ab was  founded and listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. In the early 1990's, four "combi ro-ro" vessels were built in Poland.

The Finnlines Group was established and the Company was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange. Finnlines also ordered newbuildings, Hansa Class ro-pax vessels from Poland, each with a capacity of 3,200 lane metres and 114 passenger berths. 


MS Bore Sea (Photo from Matti Pietikäinen)

1991–1992  The shareholder meeting decided to shorten the company name, which was to be Finnlines Oy (in Finnish), Finnlines Ltd (in English) and Finnlines Ab and AG (in Swedish and in German, respectively). Finnlines purchased its domestic rival Oy Bore Line Ab and as of 1992 the Bore Line operations were absorbed into Finncarriers Oy Ab, while Finnlines time-chartered six Bore Line vessels.

By the time the Hansa Class vessels Finnhansa, Finnpartner, Transeuropa and Finntrader had been built and delivered, the recession was over and the cargo capacity had increaded just in time. The vessels started to operate on the Helsinki–Lübeck route. In 1995, Finnlines founded a liner service to Russia under the name TransRussiaExpress. 


Hansa Class vessels

  1996 The Finnfellow, which was converted into a rail ferry in 1989, was reconverted to a ro-ro ferry.

MS  Finnpartner (Photo from Kaius Hedenström)


Finnlines was operating an average of 66 vessels, both owned and chartered, the number of vessels rose to 85 by the end of 2001 with the acquisition of TeamLines.


In the 2000’s the stevedoring company Finnsteve was founded. New ships were ordered but the business was challenged by strikes and eventually by the economic crisis which began in 2008. The Grimaldi Group started to buy Finnines' shares. 

Finnlines bought a container feeder shipping company Team Lines, one of the largest container carriers in Northern Europe. Finnsteve was founded after a merger of Stevedore Oy, Finnsteve Ab and Oy A.E. Erickson Ab.


Nordlandkai in Lübeck

  2002 Finnlines acquired the Swedish Nordö-Link in order to strengthen its position  in non-Finland-related traffic in the Southern Baltic Sea. .
The Company ordered five ro-pax vessels from the Italian shipyard Fincantieri. Each vessel had a capacity to transport 4,200 lane metres of rolling units and 500 passengers. Three  vessels sailed on the Finland–Germany route, two between Sweden and Germany. At the end of the year, Finnsteve started to offer container terminal services in Mussalo Harbour in Kotka.  2004  

Green vessels in Sompasaari


The company's financial result declined after strikes and lockouts; the result before taxes decreased by EUR 20.0 million, amounting to EUR 35.0 million.


Finnlines sold the container feeder company Team Lines. The first two Star Class ro-pax vessels (Finnstar and Finnmaid) were delivered in Italy. Both began sailing under the Finnish flag between Helsinki and Travemünde.

The Grimaldi Group increased its company shares and voting rights, becoming the major shareholder. . 

The Grimaldi Group accumulated its shares and voting rights to over 50%.  Emanuele Grimaldi was elected to the Board of Directors in 2006, Gianluca Grimaldi and Diego Pacella entered the Board in 2007. 

The last three Star Class ro-pax vessels were delivered. Finnlady began operating between Helsinki and Travemünde and Europalink and Nordlink on the Malmö–Travemünde route.

Finnlines ordered six ro-ro vessels from the Chinese JInling shipyard. 

Finnlines bought four vessels (Finnmill, Finnpulp, Finnhawk and Finnkraft), which had all carried Finnlines' cargo under timecharter . However, the global financial recession broke out during the summer. Volumes of unitised goods dropped immediately by around 10%, as did trailer volumes between southern Sweden and Germany.  2008

MS Finnkraft


MS Europalink (Photo from Horst-Dieter Foerster)


Numerous rearrangements were made and the vessel capacity was reduced to match the decline in cargo volumes. Several chartered vessels were redelivered and the ro-pax dessel Finnhansa was sold.

Despite the recession, new routes Finland-Poland and Poland-Germany were opened for both passengers and freight. Being a member of  a larger global group, Finnlines could offer shippers destinations in 13 Mediterranean countries through transshipment in Antwerp.

Finland’s exports declined by around 20 per cent, while passenger traffic between Finland and Germany fell by 11 per cent, which was partly due to lower numbers of truck drivers. 


The recession continued to affect the economy but signs of recovery could be seen. Grimaldi concluded the redemption of the remaining Finnlines shares and became the sole owner in 2016, delisting Finnlines from the Stock Exchange.


Volumes seemed to stabilise or even slightly rise, however, they were still below the 2008 levels. Synergies with the Grimaldi Group continued to emerge. The Company was connected not only to the Grimaldi Mediterranean network but also to the US East Coast via Atlantic Container Line. Russian and other Baltic shippers were given access to the Group's West Africa and South America services via transshipment in Antwerp. A new route connecting Helsinki and St. Petersburg to the British ports Hull and Immingham was launched.


MS Transeuropa (Photo by Nils Bergmann)


MS Finnbreeze (Photo by Nils Bergmann)


The first two Breeze-class ro-ro vessels were delivered. The new trend was to replace chartered tonnage by newbuilds, owned by the company. This meant that the management could now focus more on fuel efficiency.

The management had focussed more on passenger services and, as a result, passenger numbers showed a sharp upswing despite an overall decline on the market. 

The last four Breeze-series vessels were delivered.

MS Europalink in the Helsinki archipelago

2013 Emanuele Grimaldi was appointed as CEO of Finnlines and the Company headquarters moved to Vuosaari Harbour.


Major contracts with the automotive and paper industries were signed and cost-cutting efforts contributed to a pick-up in the economy. The result before taxes amounted to EUR 36.6 million. Finnlines announced a capex programme, which  focused on investments in environmental technology.


Windmills being loaded on Finnlines' vessel (Photo by Hans Christian Jacobsen)


Finnlines' environmental investments included the installation of exhaust gas cleaning equipment, reblading and silicone anti-fouling.

2015 The International Maritime Organisation and the European Union introduced new legislation: the new fuel sulphur limit applicable in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel. Finnlines started to install exhaust gas cleaning systems and more efficient propellers. These investments improved fuel efficiency, which also reduced the overall fuel consumption .

Finnlines initiated an extensive refurbishment programme in the passenger areas on six of its ro-pax vessels.The Company performed extremely well and the result for the period was EUR 68.1 million.

In August 2016, Grimaldi Group S.p.A. gained title to all the shares in Finnlines Plc and the shares were thus delisted from the official list of Nasdaq Helsinki. 


Renewed Star Class vessels


By 2017, a total of 20 out of 22 ro-ro and ro-pax vessels had been equipped with exhaust gas cleaning equipment, 9 had been rebladed and 2 repainted with silicone anti-fouling. Finnlines responds to the increase in demand by lengthening vessels. During 2017-2018 all six Breeze-class vessels were lengthened, which meant a 1,000 lane-metre increase in capacity.