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Finnlinesin historian aikajana


The Finnish merchant fleet had gone through massive losses because of the World War II and the state of the fleet was at its lowest point in 1945. The story of Finnlines began and the routes were expanded to United States.


The Company was founded in 1947, and purchased six old steamships, of which SS Wille, SS Kalle and SS Eero were placed in European service, and SS Tornator, SS Hamina and SS Pankakoski in United States East Coast service.


The service to the United States was opened on 5 February 1948, when the Tornator left Rauma with a cargo of wood pulp and paper to cross the Atlantic with her destination Portland, Maine. The service was operated with three vessels: SS Tornator, SS Hamina and SS Panakoski.


SS Hamina


In 1950’s new ships were being built as new routes were opened and the business grew.


The first new vessel for Finnlines was completed in January 1951. This, MS Finntrader, initiated a series which as early as 1953, was extended by her sister ships MS Finnpulp and MS Finnsailor. The vessels loaded paper, wood pulp, and other forest industry products in ports of Southern Finland for the United States. In addition to general cargo, the cargo on the return trips consisted of coal for Finland.


Liner Service from the UK was started and Finnlines was opened its own general cargo line from London and Hull to Southern Finland in March 1955. The vessels, SS Wille, SS Kalle, and SS Eero was carried sawn goods and wood pulp from Finland to the United Kingdom and coal back.


SS Kalle


MS Finnmerchant


The US bound fleet was further extended with the addition of MS Finnmerchant in 1956, MS Finnboard in 1958 and MS Finnbirch and MS Finnstar, which was purchased on the second-hand market, in 1959. 


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


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


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


MS Finnalpino (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)


MS Finnhansa


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

Finnlines also started operating ocean cruises in 1965, going first from Helsinki to Genoa via several intermediate ports and then to the Eastern Mediterranean, Dakar and back to Lisbon.

The liner services of the United States were a natural place to continue further towards the Gulf of Mexico.


The two new vessels, MS Finnhansa and MS Finnpartner, began serving in Germany via Sweden. A special chemical tanker MT Finnlark was completed for Enso-Gutzeit and a year later, a special vessel MS Tyysterniemi was designed by Finnlines for the transportation of sulphuric acid.


MS Finnpartner in October 1968 in London (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)

1968–1969  The eight newest vessels were lengthened in 1968 and 1969 (MS Finneagle, MS Finnclipper, MS Finnforest, MS Finnboston, MS Finnhawk, MS Finnarrow, MS Finnmaid and MS Finn-Enso built in 1964-1965), while the five oldest liners were sold. Also, from the German route, MS Finnpartner was sold because having two ships on the same route was found unprofitable. 


In the 1970s, the US exports to Europe developed vigorously. In the early 1970s, a series of three 14,270 dwt multipurpose "universal super liners" (MS Finn-Amer, MS Finnbuilder and MS Finnsailor) was 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 in a co-operation with Ab Svenska Amerika Linien new lines were opened to Gulf of Mexico.

Finnlines cruise programme in the Mediterranean and the Black sea, West Coast of Africa etc. contained 23 different cruises, calling at a total of 27 different ports. Finnlines vessels were also operated to and from the Arctic Islands of Canada in the North West passage. 1973

MS Finnmaster (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)


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


Finnlines and FÅA (Finland Steamship Company) established a joint marketing company, called Oy Finncarriers Ab to take over the Baltic Sea and the North Sea freight traffic services. The US line was discarded due to an abundance of operators. The first Finnlines-operated vessel to trade in polar waters was the bulk carrier MS Finntimber, which was called at Marmorilik in November 1976, one of the northernmost ports in Greenland, to load zinc ore and lead ore for Antwerp and Ykspihlaja (Finland).


MS Finntimber (Photo from Skyfotos)


GTS Finnjet (Photo from Matti Pietikäinen)

1977 Gas-turbine vessel GTS Finnjet was delivered and MS Finlandia was rebuilt as a cruise ship and renamed as 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 of Finnlines-Sisco Middle East Cargo Services. MS 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 (MS Finnmaid, MS Finnarrow and MS Finnhawk).


MS Finnsailor (Photo from FG-Shipping Oy Ab)

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


The decade saw the end of Finnlines’ cruise program as well as Enso-Gutzeit’s shipping activities. Finnlines’ vessels was travelling around the world as the formation of Finnlines Group started to form.

Finnlines’ cruise programme in the Mediterranean was ended and the vessel (MS Finnstar) was sold. Finnlines traffic to the Middle East was not proved profitable and by the Iraq-Iran war the traffic was terminated. The super liners (MS Finn-Amer, MS Finnbuilder and MS Finnsailor) were put on 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 decided to give up most the shipping activities and 75% of the capital stock of Finnlines were sold to other shipping companies. Also, all the vessels sailing under Finncarriers were sold to Effoa (former FÅA, Finland Steamship Company) and Neste Oy. All of Enso-Gutzeit’s Finncarriers shares (held through Finnlines) were sold to Effoa making Finncarriers Effoa’s subsidiary.

The Finnlines fleet traded in the Antarctic thanks to a charterparty signed with the government of India.  1983–1985 

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


GTS Finnjet


For the time being, the end to the Finnlines passenger service came as 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 of the world during her 12 years in the Scanscot freight pool was a 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 the operations began in 1989. Finnlink was founded and started to operate between Finland and Sweden. Formation of the Finnlines Group started at the beginning of 1989, when Effoa (Finland Steamshimp Company) decided to separate off its cargo services and the relevant company holdings.



After a series of mergers, diffusions and name changes, the Finnlines Group Oy Ab consortium was born. This new Finnlines was listed on the Helsinki Exchanges. In the early 1990s, a series of four "combi ro-ro" vessels was built in Poland.

The Finnlines Group was established and the Company was listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange on 2 July 1990. Finnlines also ordered newbuildings, Hansa Class ro-pax vessels from Poland, each with a capacity of 3,200 lane metres and 114 passenger berhs. 


MS Bore Sea (Photo from Matti Pietikäinen)

1991–1992  In a shareholder meeting the name of the Company was decided to be shortened to 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 MS Finnhansa, MS Finnpartner, MS Transeuropa and MS Finntrader was completed, the recession was over and the increase in carrying capacity occurred at just the right time. The vessels were put on the Helsinki–Lübeck route. In 1995, Finnlines started 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.
Finnlines obtained new subsidiaries and vessels and railfreight trafficking took off.   1997

MS  Finnpartner (Photo from Kaius Hedenström)


The Company’s trading performance worsened as the Russian crisis bit and Finland's economic growth stuttered. By this year, Finnlines was operating on average 66 vessels, both owned and chartered, a figure that increased to 85 by the end of 2001 with the acquisition of TeamLines.


In 2000’s Finnsteve was born due to a merger and business deals were made in other sectors as well. More ships were ordered but the business was challenged by strikes and eventually by the economic crisis that began in 2008. The Grimaldi’s became an increasingly meaningful part of the Finnlines.

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


Nordlandkai in Lübeck

  2002 Finnlines acquired Sweden’s Nordö-Link Ab in order to strengthen its position on non-Finland-related traffic in the southern Baltic Sea. The Railship fleet of wagons was sold.
The Company ordered from Italy’s Fincantieri five Star Class ro-pax vessels, able to transport 4,200 lane metres of rolling units and 500 passengers. Three of the new vessels were put on Finland–Germany route, while two were operated in Sweden-related routes. At the end of the year, Finnsteve began operating in Mussalo port in Kotka, offering container terminal services.  2004  

Green vessels in Sompasaari


Company’s results were hit by strikes and lockouts; result before taxes decreased by EUR 20.0 million and amounted to EUR 35.0 million.


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

The Grimaldi brand was first mentioned in the following annual report, because by July 2006, the Group had increased its shares and voting rights to 30.5%. By October 2006, Grimaldi upped its stake to 46.2% after buying a block of shares from Thominvest, until then Finnlines' second-largest shareholder. 
  2007 The Grimaldi Group accumulated its shares and voting rights to over 50%. Finnlines’ chairman and vice-chairman were replaced and Emanuele Grimaldi, already a board member, was joined by his elder brother Gianluca Grimaldi and brother-in-law Diego Pacella. Christer Antson, formerly executive vice president and chief controller, was promoted to Chief Executive Officer. The last three Star Class ro-pax vessels were delivered. MS Finnlady began operating between Helsinki and Travemünde and MS Europalink and MS Nordlink started on Malmö–Travemünde route. In autumn, Finnlines ordered six new ro-ro vessels from a Chinese shipyard called Jinling. The Company set up a new Passenger Service business unit, which was put in charge of the passenger traffic of all Group lines.
Finnlines completed the acquisition of four vessels (MS Finnmill, MS Finnpulp, MS Finnhawk and MS Finnkraft), all of which were already under time charter to the carrier. However, the global financial depression began over 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 changes in routes were made and capacity was reduced to match the decline in cargo. More chartered vessels were returned and MS Finnhansa (built in 1994) was sold with the option and the intention of buying it back at the same price when the Company’s finances improve.

Despite the depression, new routes were opened between Finland and Poland for both passengers and freight, as well as between Poland and Germany. Thanks to its position as part of a larger global group, Finnlines could offer shippers destinations in 13 Mediterranean countries through transshipment in Antwerp.

The CEO of Finnlines Christer Antson resigned and was replaced temporarily by Emanuele Grimaldi – who became one of the Company’s first non-Finnish chief executives – before the Group brought in Uwe Bakosch. Finland’s exports were down by around 20%, while passenger traffic between Finland and Germany fell by around 11 per cent, in part due to lower numbers of truck drivers. Over the course of the year, nine chartered vessels were redelivered.


Economic depression still had its effects but the situation seemed to stabilise. Grimaldi took a stronger hold on the Company and by 2016 became the full owner, taking Finnlines out of the Stock Exchange.


Volumes seemed to stabilise or even slightly rise, however, they were still below 2008 levels. Synergies with the Grimaldi Group were 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 of Hull and Immingham was launched.

The total number of subsidiaries was brought down to 21, less than half the number that previously existed. Grimaldi's stake in Finnlines was now 65.4%.


MS Transeuropa (Photo by Nils Bergmann)


MS Finnbreeze (Photo by Nils Bergmann)


The harsh winter played havoc with schedules. Finnlines took delivery of the Finnbreeze and Finnsea, the first two units of a Breeze series of six ro-ro vessels ordered at Jinling shipyard in 2007, equipped with hoistable car decks. This became the trend: newbuildings replacing chartered tonnage which was returned. A growing owned fleet meant management could now focus more on fuel efficiency.

Passenger numbers showed a sharp increase despite an overall decline in the market – possibly due to the improved services on board. But cargo volumes to and from Finland remained depressed. Seaborne imports decreased by 2% in 2012 compared to 2011. Trailer and truck volumes decreased by 3% and private commercial passenger traffic between Finland and Sweden was down 1%; between Finland and Germany the corresponding decrease was a whopping 24%.

MS Finnsky, MS Finnsun, MS Finntide and MS Finnwave, the rest of the Breeze series vessels ordered at the Jinling shipyard were delivered to the Company.

MS Europalink in the Helsinki archipelago

2013 Emanuele Grimaldi became the new CEO of Finnlines and the Company headquarters moved to Vuosaari Harbour.

Between 2013 and 2014 five vessels were sold: MS Translubeca, MS Transeuropa, MS Finnhansa, MS Finnarrow and MS Europalink.

Major contracts with the automotive and paper industries were signed and cost-cutting was finally effected; Result before taxes amounted to EUR 36.6 million. Finnlines announced a capex programme 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 scrubbers, 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 scrubbers as well as the efficient propellers. These investments improved fuel efficiency further, which in turn also reduced overall fuel consumption over the years.

Finnlines was initiated an extensive refurbishment programme of the passenger areas on six of its ro-pax vessels and the renovations were completed by November 2016. During 2016, four ships were fitted with exhaust gas scrubbers and two were also rebladed. The Company performed extremely well and the result for the period was EUR 68.1 million.

On 25 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. The redemption price and interest accrued was paid on 17 November 2016. Grimaldi Group completed an acquisition process which started back in 2005. 


Renewed Star Class vessels


By 2017, a total of 20 out of 22 ro-ro and ro-pax vessels are equipped with scrubbers, 9 have been rebladed and 2 repainted with silicone anti-fouling. Finnlines responds to increased demand by lengthening vessels: Starting from September 2017, Finnlines will lengthen four of its Breeze series vessels, with an option of two additional vessels. This will increase vessel capacity around 1,000 lane metres.