Helsinki shipyard makes a big-time comeback

article picture: Helsinki shipyard makes a big-time comeback

During its 150+ year history, Helsinki Shipyard has become a strong brand in international shipbuilding. Icebreakers and other arctic vessels have been built at the shipyard for more than a century and the 2020’s have started with a bang as well: the shipyard crew is currently working on a project featuring two Luxury Expedition Vessels.

The vessels are intended to operate both in the Arctic and Antarctic waters as well as in the tropical waters during the spring and autumn seasons. The first vessel is planned to be delivered in August 2021 and the second vessel in January 2022.

Helsinki Shipyard and Russia’s largest river cruise company Vodohod Ltd signed a contract for these Luxury Expedition Vessels last summer. Interestingly enough, the deal links directly with the recent ownership change at the shipyard: Algador Holdings Ltd. purchased the shipyard from Arctech Helsinki Shipyard in May 2019, and Vodohod is under the same ownership.

Basically, this means that the Russian owners of Algador – businessmen Rishat Baugatdinov ja Vladimir Kasjanenko – have a need for shipmakers due to their cruise business and other marine interests. Now they’ve added in-house muscle to produce those ships.


Next Chapter

Helsinki Shipyard CEO Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch says that shipyard is very proud and happy for the first order of the shipyard.

“This proves to everyone that we have started a new chapter in the operation of the shipyard. We will strengthen especially our design department in the near future and in connection with the start of production, also our production department,” he says.

As operations at the shipyard continue, a collective sigh of relief can be heard from industry insiders. Helsinki came pretty close to losing its trademark shipyard, since the previous operator, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard, was owned by the Russian state company USC – and, as such, subject to US sanctions. Due to that state ownership, Helsinki shipyard had to live under a dark cloud for years – but now the sky is clear again, Rotkirch believes, since Algador Holdings is a privately owned company that is not sanctioned in any way.

“The slate has been wiped clean and we can move on,” he says, adding that ‘business as usual’ is now very much the mentality at the yard.

Overcoming Adversity

Rotkirch credits the former CEO Esko Mustamäki for having an extended dialogue with the American authorities and finding out just what will it take to escape the shadow of the sanctions. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) stated that at least half of the ownership must be in the hands of some entity that is not subject to sanctions. As Algador Holdings is now the sole owner, the problem has ceased to exist, leaving the shipyard free to plot its future.

In the 2020’s Rotkirch believes he will be running a sizeable shipyard with 500– 1,000 employees. “The number of subcontractors is pretty big, reaching as much as 500 people at times.”

Building these Luxury Cruise Expedition Vessels, there will be plenty of room for the Finnish marine cluster to come in and contribute, for example in furnishing the cabins. “The Finnish supplier network is world-class, so we’re obviously looking to deploy that.”


Artic Muscle

Rotkirch explains that the shipyard playbook prefers landing a duo or trio of ships to single vessel orders: building a series of ships means that there is continuity in the business – and once you build the first vessel, the next one is much more simple to put together.

The shipyard believes that despite climate change, arctic expertise will be in great demand in the coming years.

“For example, there is need in the market for small luxury cruisers that sail the Arctic – as well as traditional ‘work horses’ with the ability to break through the ice.”

Call of Duty

If the comeback of the shipyard comes as surprise, CEO Rotkirch is experiencing a “second act” of sorts, too. The 70-year-old industry veteran was headed for retirement a couple of years ago, when he was approached about a new gig: how would he like to help Helsinki shipyard get back on its feet?

“I thought that it’s definitely worth a shot,” he laughs. This way an eventful career in marine – that started back in 1976 – moves into its sixth decade. Listening to Rotkirch, it is clear that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank:

“Going forward with our new operations, we will be in a tight spot for some time, but I believe that we can turn things around by 2021,” he says.

Text by Sami J. Anteroinen
Photos: Artech Helsinki Shipyard Oy


Make it a Double

Vodohod is a Russian cruise company and river cruise line operator, founded in 2004 by the Volga Shipping Company. The company has its headquarters in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. Vodohod operates more than 50 passenger ships along rivers of Volga, Don, Kama, the Moscow and Volga-Don canals, the Volga- Baltic Waterway, Northern-Western rivers, lakes Ladoga and Onega. The company is owned by Rishat Baugatdinov and Vladimir Kasjanenko who also own numerous other marine assets.
Building on Tradition

Helsinki Shipyard Oy is centrally located in Hietalahti, Helsinki and the shipyard is specialized in demanding marine technology and shipbuilding. The shipyard has long experience in designing and building passenger and cruise vessels. It is known as a world-class builder of icebreakers and other special vessels for arctic conditions.

The roots of Helsinki Shipyard Oy date back to year 1865 when Helsingfors Skeppsdocka was established. Vessels have been thus built at the same location for more than 150 years, including over half of the operating icebreakers in the world.

In August 2019, the icebreaking arctic tanker Yuriy Kuchiev was delivered from the shipyard. In February 2020, construction of two Luxury Expedition Vessels kicked off.
The Shipyard's Production Facilities Include:

- a 280 meters long covered graving dock
- covered outfitting halls
- covered painting halls
- three outfitting quays

Vodohod Luxury Expedition Vessels: Fast Facts

- Length – 113 m
- Breadth – 20,2 m
- Draught – 5,7 m
- Cruising speed – 14 knots
- Ice class – PC5
- Capacity – 157 passengers
- Classification – Lloyd’s Register

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