Finnlines emerged from the remnants of the Finnish fleet at the end of the Second World War. The majority of the country’s merchant vessels had been destroyed during the conflict.
Over the past seven decades, Finnlines has known many ups and downs: from striking unions to transatlantic rate depressions and the middle east oil price shock. Over that time, management has tried its hand at the container trades, bulk shipping and even cruising, with mixed success.
Perhaps the lowest point in the carrier’s history came just after the financial crisis, when, if it were not for prompt intervention by the Grimaldi Group, the largest shareholder at the time, the line could well have gone bust.
Today, seventy years since the first commercial operations, Finnlines has never been in better shape. 2016 was again a record year. Profits came in at Euro 68 million, 20% up on 2015. Our impressive bottom line was achieved on declining turnover, making it all the more remarkable.
As turnover has declined, volumes have increased. We are doing more for our customers with fewer assets. We carried more freight in 2016 than the previous year, a total of 629,000 cargo units. More than 600,000 private and commercial passengers travelled on our ships, an increase of around 5%.
This turnaround has been achieved thanks to ever-in-creasing productivity, both per ship and per employee. As part of the never-ending search for productivity gains, the Grimaldi Group, which now owns all Finnlines shares, is studying the lengthening or ‘jumboisation’ of up to six vessels.
Fuel consumption, our largest cost, remains close to record lows, meaning ships emit less pollution. The final two vessels in the 22-strong fleet, all fully owned and managed, will be fitted with emissions scrubbers this year. These vessels do not release any toxic sulphur fumes while trading in the ecologically sensitive Baltic and North Seas. Our efforts to reduce our fleet’s environmental impact were recognised at last year’s European Business Awards, where Finnlines was handed the ‘Ruban d’honneur’.
The world in which Finnlines trades has changed beyond all recognition. Trade flows, even between western nations, were strictly managed in the early days. Permission from Finland’s central bank was required if a company wanted to invest abroad. The Finnish flag was burdened by excessive costs, leading to wholesale flagging out.
Today, Europe is governed by free-traders, which means capital and expertise can move freely around the bloc. Rather than a regional player relying on ever-changing partnerships, Finnlines is part of a multinational market leader with a consolidated network spanning several continents.
The ebbs and flows of the Finnlines story are recounted in some detail in ‘Grimaldi Armatori, The Story of a Family and a Company’, a history of over 430 pages that was published late last year. Photos of old Finnlines vessels and early marketing campaigns are included in a chapter dedicated to the line.
Customers and staff can be assured that Finnlines, and the Grimaldi Group, which by coincidence was founded in the same year, will both be around for many decades to come.