The selling point for the North is cleanliness and the momentum for using that point in Raahe is now
Raahe, the second largest city in Northern Ostrobothnia, was established more than 370 years ago as an international port city, and it is still that city. The city looks confidently into the future, as the green transition of the energy sector brings enormous new opportunities to the region.
The open storage fields of the port and the dark sea behind the piers. Giant ships that come, unload, and leave. Smaller ships that come, load, and leave. Big machinery. The view is almost majestic. When it comes to heavy industry, everything is big. Timelines, scales, quantities, and amounts. The Port of Raahe has been operating for more than 40 years.
During the busiest times, ships are standing at sea waiting to dock at the pier. They bring raw materials and containers to Raahe. Open ships and ships with items on the deck, and when the deck is opened, they have more items inside. Departing ships are mainly loaded with raw wood, finished products, or components, for example wooden apartment building elements.
Unloading or loading one ship will take 2–3 shifts. If the ship arrives at night, it can usually be unloaded during the next day. Vessels from Asia are an exception to this. Because of their size, they take the berth of two ships and require five shifts.
A total of 600 ships visit the port piers each year.
Read more about the Port of Raahe.
Aiming for the future
The largest port in the Bay of Bothnia is constantly being developed. Activities will be expanded, electrified, and taken towards an environmentally friendly future. Emission-free ship turns, biofuels, hydrogen, wind power, and hybrid steel are the terms with which Pauli Sarpola, Managing Director of the Port of Raahe, refers to the future.
“Carbon neutrality, EU emissions trading, and winter navigation pose challenges for northern ports. An ice-strengthened ship consumes 10% more even in normal sailing, and there is still no alternative fuel to diesel,” says Sarpola.
Industry will be needed in the future as well, but it is difficult for anyone to predict the change that will take place and its speed.
By future Sarpola means the period from 2050s to 2070s. Industry will be needed in the future as well, but it is difficult for anyone to predict the change that will take place and its speed. It takes time to build anything new, but it takes time even getting to a point where building can begin. Permit processes, appeal rounds, and planning work require their own time.
“The service life of a dock is 50 years. Big investments are not made in terms of the present moment. We have to be able to look further. The development and infrastructure of the entire sub-region must support the same goals,” Sarpola says.
Not just any project shipments
One of the largest employers of the Port of Raahe are project shipments, wind turbines. Wind farms are being built in Northern Finland at a fast pace. A couple of hundred power plant units arriving by ship pass through the port every year. The pace will only increase in the coming years.
One power plant is one wind tower, and one tower means about 15 further transports by land. The size of the pieces makes transport work challenging. The generator section of one power plant, which is approximately 250 metres high, is larger than a bus, one wing longer than 100 metres.
In order to get the pieces out of the port, the junction areas have been expanded and the intersections with highways have been improved.
In Raahe, wind turbines unloaded from ships are transported to the coastal region and southern Lapland. There is a huge need for storage of items waiting to be transported. In the Port of Raahe, there is currently 30 hectares of load-bearing storage area required for handling such large pieces.
“The wind conditions in Finland are good and even. The production costs of wind power have decreased as technology improves. It's worth building here now,” Sarpola says.
A total of 4,500 wind turbines are planned to be built in Finland, half of which are located within the operating radius of the Port of Raahe. Raahe currently produces the third largest amount of wind power in Finland, and the utilisation of offshore wind power is only just beginning.
In addition to transport, there will also be work for the builders and operators of power plants and their foundations.
Help for smaller companies
The Port of Raahe, located in Lapaluoto five kilometres from the city centre, has three parts, one of which is the six-berth port of SSAB's steel mill. The steel plant and its giant investments in the area are also at the centre of the port's plans.
The increasing transportation of recycled raw material to the factory is one part, hydrogen and its need in the fossil-free steel manufacturing process is another, and the side streams of production with the various possibilities of the circular economy are the third.
“There are keys to development in the Raahe region, and the city is at the forefront when it comes to planning and exploring opportunities. If only we knew how to use them all and were on the move on time,” Sarpola reflects.
The Raahe region has the keys to development and the city is in the vanguard of exploring opportunities.
The proximity of the port and the opportunities it offers are widely beneficial to companies in various fields. The port's fields have space for both wood industry and machine shop operations, and they benefit from transport connections and the larger players in the area. Smaller project shipments can easily be added to the steel factory's ships.
Flexibility is a word that describes the local way of working. The various needs of entrepreneurs and their responses are addressed through extensive cooperation and, if necessary, are acted upon very quickly.
- Read more about Raahe's opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Value chain thinking as a starting point
Green electricity and its guaranteed supply is one of the most important criteria for investors, alongside transport connections, when deciding on the locations of plants of international importance. Clean energy and well-functioning electricity networks are a reason to enter a new area. In countries with continuous power outages, shutdown and recovery of factory processes take a huge amount of time and eats away at efficiency.
The current world situation will further accelerate the transition. There is a desire to eliminate energy dependencies.
“Raahe is well connected: Main road 88 inland, highway 8 north and south, airport one hour away, electrified railway up to the port and the sea open to the world. Now we have to invest in the availability of clean, fossil-free electricity,” explains Harri Tuomikoski, Industrial Ombudsman of the City of Raahe.
Raahe is well connected, now we need to invest in the availability of clean, fossil-free electricity.
According to Tuomikoski, wind, sea, and solar energy is needed to produce hydrogen. Electric energy, its availability and storage are at the centre of Raahe's future development, its most important element. According to Tuomikoski, the entire value chain thinking is based on it.
The production of hydrogen requires electricity, while hydrogen is used not only to make steel but also to produce fertilisers and synthetic methane.
“A new type of production has started to be built in Finland also through the battery cluster. The world is becoming electrified and that opens up opportunities. There are an exceptionally large number of minerals in Finland that can be used. Using them and further processing them in Finland instead of exporting raw materials would be a big deal,” Tuomikoski says.
In order for large actors to be able to reduce their own carbon footprint, emission-free logistics is required throughout the entire production chain. The 2030s, where many have set their goals, is already around the corner.
“The possibilities are huge! Whoever has the skills and is able to utilise them, wins. There is no time to waste, the momentum is now,” Tuomikoski says.
Cleanliness as ace in the sleeve
For international companies that live in a daily life where pollution is already so present that air is saturated with coal and water with heavy metals, cleanliness is vital. The eyes are turning towards north.
Industrial Ombudsman Tuomikoski wants to highlight not only clean energy but also clean water and its potential in Raahe, for example from the perspective of food production and further processing.
“The food industry is an interesting sector that we often ignore. ‘Mummon muusi’ and ‘Mummon ranskalaiset’ are made in Vihanti here in Raahe. Raahe also gets really good water from our ridge areas,” Tuomikoski reminds.
The food industry is an interesting sector that we often ignore. Raahe also gets really good water from our ridge areas.
Tuomikoski also reminds us of the quality of life in Raahe. Raahe's charming, idyllic seashore city with its services and cultural inputs provides the prerequisites for a good life for the inhabitants and employees of the area.
“Half a century has been lived here in the shadow of the chimney. It has been well lived and we are moving forward,” Tuomikoski says, as the pride for his home region comes through in his voice.
Raahe in a nutshell
- Raahe produces the third largest amount of wind power in Finland.
- Raahe, a member of the carbon-neutral municipality (Hinku) network, reduced its total emissions by as much as 53% in 2007–2017 and its emissions per inhabitant by 51%.
- Raahe Region Development coordinates the National Hydrogen Network project, the aim of which is to make Finland one of the leading countries in the hydrogen and circular economy.
- The Raahe region has several key factors of the hydrogen economy in both energy production and consumption, and thus good conditions to actively participate in the growth of the hydrogen economy.
- Business plots are available in the vicinity of the port, rail connection, and the national road 8.
- Oulu Airport is less than an hour away.
The article has been originally published as a native content in Finnish at iltasanomat.fi on May 2022.