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Bringing up the next Generation - Introducing Finnlines Newbuilding team

All four members in the Newbuilding team have a proven track record of shipping and maritime industry. Their expertise covers navigation, ship design, dockings, classification, hotel management, cruise business...  In fact, the list is never-ending. All are committed to developing a new, advanced vessel concept.

Finnlines Newbuilding team is committed to developing the best possible vessel concept for Finnlines. Mikael Lindholm, Pasi Väänänen, Juha Ahia and Kristiina Uppala took part in a meeting.


Head of Newbuilding - Mikael Lindholm

Mikael Lindholm was appointed Head of Newbuilding at the beginning of 2020 as it was necessary to pay full-time attention on the EUR 500 million investment programme. Mikael finished his long sailing ca-reer as a Captain onboard Silja Line’s passenger ferry in the late 1990s and landed with working on various projects in the company’s shore organisation. He moved on to act as a Marine Manager and finally as a Director of Ship Management. Being a member of the Executive Group, he got a good overall picture of all company operations.

"I got familiar with the Jinling Shipyard,

which now makes it easier

to work on the new project."

Newbuildings seem to be Mikael’s destiny as he supervised Silja Serenade when the vessel was built at the Turku Shipyard in 1989–1990. When he joined Finnlines in 2012 to lead Finnlines Ship Management, the last Breeze-class ro-ro vessels were under construction. “I had hardly settled at Finnlines when I had to travel to China to attend a sea trial. Later I celebrated delivery and ship naming ceremonies. These occasions gave me an opportunity to get well familiar with the Jinling Shipyard, which now makes it easier to work on the new projects.” 

Challenges are always welcome. “At Finnlines we are very excited to work on these milestones and I am very proud of my professional team."


Newbuilding Project Manager - Juha Ahia

Having graduated as a Naval Architect, Juha Ahia was employed by the ship design and engineering company Deltamarin. “University studies aimed for understanding fundamental principles of naval architecture and marine engineering, such as ship design, stability and hydrodynamics, loads and structures, and machinery. Courses could be quite theoretical, but an academic background and “learning by doing” in a project department that mainly worked with international customers gave me a good start. My first superior was also very inspiring.”  

During his more than 20-year employment at Finnlines, Juha has been involved in many newbuilding projects. To be precise, the Superstar ro-pax is his fifth newbuilding series and it will add up the number of deliveries to 19.

Juha has also worked on conversions where vessels have been rebuilt to meet changes in capacity demand and amendments in legislation. “Lengthening of the six Breeze-class ro-ro vessels could be seen as quite a spectacle, but the project was technically even more successful than we expected,” Juha says.

"The Superstar ro-pax

is my fifth newbuilding series

where I have been involved."

Juha works on newbuildings from day one when the owner decides to order new ships. “The building process, which starts with the design development and ends when the ship sets off for traffic, is long and hectic, involving many players both within and outside Finnlines. Technical and commercial aspects must be considered and numerous decisions made.” 

According to Juha shipbuilding is not rocket science. “We could call a shipyard and order a ro-ro ship with a capacity of 5,800 lane metres to be delivered in March 2022. However, we prefer an analytical and pragmatic process to reach the design that serves our purposes.”


Head of Customer Service, Passenger Services - Kristiina Uppala

Kristiina Uppala is a world citizen. She has worked around the world in many kinds of leading positions, such as a Hotel Director, in the travel & hotel business. During her international career, multicultural teamwork and customer segments have become a daily standard. Some of her most memorable and remarkable workplaces have been luxury hotels & resorts in Monte Carlo, France and Thailand.

The planned 2-year contract onboard MSC cruise vessels ended up lasting 15 years. Cruising in various positions in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords, South Africa, Middle East and South America, there were always new challenges to face and targets to achieve. 

For the last 5 years, Kristiina has been working at Finnlines as the Head of Customer Service. The main duties have been to improve the onboard concept and revenue opportunities. She has also done major facelifts on all ro-pax vessels to unify the customer experience.  

"I have several years of experience

in international leadership roles

in the hotel and cruise business around the world."

After many years at sea and having seen all sides of the hospitality industry, it was natural to be involved in the newbuilding projects. “We are working closely with the architect and suppliers to ensure that the customer experience is brought to a completely new level. We are trying to find the perfect balance to fulfill the expectations of the freight and leisure customers, respecting today’s trends and values. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing these new vessels on our archipelago line.”


Project Engineer - Pasi Väänänen

A Bachelor’s degree in marine engineering ensures that there are many jobs to choose from. During his 20-year marine career, Pasi Väänänen has sailed as a watchkeeping engineer and as a 1st engineer, who is in charge of daily work in the engine department. 

Before joining Finnlines in the summer of 2019, Pasi worked as a technical superintendent for Columbia Cruise Services. The work involved frequent travel, often from Asia via Hamburg – where the company headquarters are – to the Caribbean. There was no time to recover from jetlag. “The crew was queuing up for advice and support from the moment I embarked the cruise ship. Technical problems varied from main engine stops to broken dishwashers and frozen cocktail machines.” Engineering skills were a must, counselling skills an asset. “I often had to sort out crewing topics as there were around 60 nationalities working onboard and cultures crash issues were faced every now and then.”

"I have worked on several projects

and especially interesting was to work with 

top professionals around 60 nationalities on board." 

The newbuilding project was moving full ahead when Pasi started at Finnlines. “I concentrate mainly on engine room arrangements, which include more than machinery. I have to consider rules and regulations, check drawings, participate in selection of makers and suppliers. However, this is all about teamwork and our team meets regularly to have facts checked and details covered.” 

It is also evident that sooner or later long-distance travel will be noted in Pasi’s calendar.


Other key participants

Finnlines’ Newbuilding team has worked together with Grimaldi’s experts to create the most environmentally friendly ship design ever operated in the Baltic Sea. Finnlines also has a site team at the Jinling shipyard to supervise the work, which started with steel cutting at the beginning of June 2020. 

“The role of supervision cannot be overestimated. No matter how good the design is, the product will be a failure without quality work and control,” says Juha Ahia.