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  • Finnlines News 1/2024

Sailing home again, across the sea

M/S Finncanopus departed from the shipyard in Weihai, China, on
18 December 2023. Like the sister vessel, Finnsirius, Finncanopus was accompanied by fireworks.

The first stop was in Yantai, where 600 lorries were loaded. Christmas was celebrated in the Yellow Sea and the crew followed Finnish dining traditions, which consist of rice pudding, gingerbread, casseroles, ham and other delicacies. Even Santa Claus boarded the ship and delivered gifts, but it has not been reported if he came down the funnel or landed on the helicopter deck or used the pilot door.

It had been snowing in Yantai, but by the time Finncanopus approached Singapore before New Year, tropical heat was on. The vessel stopped to refuel, refill food stores and fresh water supplies.

Court of King Neptune

The line-crossing ceremony is a must when seafarers cross the Equator for the first time. The ceremony has a history of brutal rituals and embarrassing ordeals, but on the Finncanopus crew members were welcomed to join the court of King Neptune without physical hardship. Once the ceremony was over, the Captain issued certificates to those initiated into a new and higher status.

Operation pancake in the Indian Ocean

The original plan was to sail through the Suez Channel, but the Red Sea had been unsafe for merchant vessels for some time and it was decided to divert around the Cape of Good Hope.

If Finncanopus had taken the original route, it could not have helped a Finnish solo-sailor, Ari Känsäkoski, who was participating in the Global Solo Challenge with the aim to sail around the world in 130–150 days. However, the mast on his Fuji sailing boat had broken in rough weather and he had been struggling on his own for twenty days in the Indian Ocean, far from any shoreline or other boats. Ari was running out of food supplies and he also needed clean diesel.

Having read news of Finncanopus’ route, Ari contacted Finnlines’ Senior Cargo Superintendent, Timo Vanhala, who had been involved in arranging transportation of Ari’s boat from Kotka to Bilbao. Finncanopus was heading to Durban in South Africa, but could assist. The galley crew prepared sandwiches and pancake, which were transferred to the solo sailor through the pilot door. Clean diesel was also delivered.

As Finncanopus had to deviate from its original route, the crew could help an unfortunate solo sailor in the Indian Ocean.

Once in a lifetime voyage

After Durban, the following ports were Las Palmas and Djen Djen in Algeria, where the lorries were unloaded. After a quick stop outside Vlissingen for bunkering (refuelling), the vessel headed for the Baltic and icy waters after Bornholm.

Having sailed 17,362 nautical miles, equivalent to 32,154 km, the vessel arrived in Naantali on 11 February 2024. For many crew members the homeward voyage was something to experience once in a lifetime.

“The crew was so fantastic that the long voyage felt like a boating trip. Days passed by fast as there was much to do to prepare the vessel for traffic”, says Captain Jyrki Repo. “Luckily no pirates were encountered, only Chinese fishermen were seen off West Africa. “

The maiden voyage set off from Kapellskär on 16 February.

Travel on the upturn

Finnlines operates combined freight and passenger vessels on four routes, which are Helsinki–Travemünde, Naantali–Långnäs–Kapellskär, Malmö–Travemünde, and Malmö– Świnoujście.

In 2023, Finnlines transported a total of 695,000 passengers, the figure includes professional drivers and private travellers. Leisure travel increased by over 17 per cent compared with 2022. The strongest growth took place between Finland and Sweden, 49 per cent, and it could be noted that the number of Swedish travellers increased substantially.