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Q&A – The Tallink Silja Line – Navigating Baltic Sustainability

Some question the sustainability of ferry operations, and in this case mini-cruise too, but let’s hear from Tallink Silja Line about the incredible, diverse and broad policies and actions they are taking to protect the Baltic Sea, the environment, marine life and the places they operate: Estonia, Finland, Aland and Sweden. Here is Sustainable Journeys Q&A with Olga Vanbergen of Tallink Silja Line.

My name is Olga Vanbergen, and I am a Sales Manager of the International sales department of Tallink Silja Line, the leading provider of high-quality mini-cruise and passenger transport services in the northern Baltic Sea region. Our fleet of 15 vessels allows us to offer a wide range of services and frequent departures between Finland, Estonia and Sweden. As a result of our recent investment and fleet renewal program, we currently deploy some of the most advanced cruise ferries on the Baltic Sea with state-of-the-art facilities, improved accommodation possibilities, larger onboard shopping areas and high-quality onboard services, setting a new benchmark for travel standards on the Baltic Sea. In addition, the Group operates three hotels in Tallinn and one in Riga.

Our newest vessels, Megastar (2017, Meyer Turku) and MyStar (2022, Rauma), are constructed in Finland and are equipped with dual-fuel engines from the outset, enabling them to run on LNG (liquefied natural gas) consistently throughout the year. This initiative is an integral component of our comprehensive environmental program, aimed at minimizing pollution and providing our guests with an elevated sailing experience.

We always strive for the highest level of customer satisfaction. The Tallink shuttle service is a critical transport link between Tallinn and Helsinki and provides regular daily departures all year round with the company’s two shuttle vessels, MyStar and Megastar, specifically designed for this route. With 12 departures daily, the shuttle service departure slots are focused on morning and evening peak times and are thus highly convenient for commuter traffic. The service is an essential part of the Estonia-Finland transportation infrastructure, in essence providing a “floating bridge” between the two capital cities.

Even though the voyage only lasts 2 hours, these ships are bursting with amenities to occupy your time with during these two hours – ranging from a wide selection of restaurants, bars, and cafes to top-of-the-range kids’ play areas and the largest floating shopping centre on the Baltic Sea. There are also Comfort and Business Lounge facilities on both the shuttles and a Platinum Lounge on MyStar for passengers who prefer a more private, quiet and relaxed atmosphere. Megastar and MyStar both accommodate up to 2,800 passengers. Tallink Shuttle ferries also accommodate cars and lorries with 3,650 lane meters on Megastar and 3,000 lane meters on MyStar.

We accept all types of EVs on board our vessels (except for damaged EVs), but it’s important to note that charging stations are currently unavailable for safety reasons.

Image depicting the MyStar and Megastar ships travelling through ice enroute to their destination.

Our goals are high, we want to have a clean Baltic Sea, reduce our climate impact, make economically wise decisions, and ensure that our employees, customers, and investors are not only satisfied but happy.

Our business philosophy is based on delivering sustainable economic, environmental, labour and ethical performance. To achieve this we comply with legislation, regulations, best practices and ethical norms. In addition, group-wide internal policies, guidelines and standards are in place and we expect our suppliers and business partners to behave in as similarly a legal, ethical and responsible manner as we do.

Technological innovation is part of our daily work. We invest in collaboration with research institutions and encourage all crews of Tallink ships to introduce innovations that enhance energy, fuel, and water savings.

We are aiming to:
* Reduce our CO2 footprint annually by 2%;
* Increase our energy efficiency annually;
* Work towards a paperless office and paperless service by 2025.
* Reduce the use of single-use plastics across our business activities with the aim of ultimately operating a single-use plastics-free business;
* Eliminating any pollutants going into the sea.

Our pricing structure is not affected directly by LNG fuel type. Our overall pricing policy is shaped by broader operational costs, maintenance, and staffing, necessary to maintain the quality and efficiency of our ferry services. Additionally, a mandatory Emission fee (ETS) which has been enforced from January 1, 2024, as regulated by the EU. On the contrary, leveraging sustainable fuels and maintaining low CO2 emissions enables us to uphold lower ETS rates.

We are sourcing LNG from sustainable sources. All of our new ships use environmentally friendly fuels, we are continuously looking at the impact of our supply chain and logistics, so emissions are constantly decreasing. This helps us contribute to the fight against global warming.

We hold a dominant position as the market leader on the Helsinki-Tallinn route, maintaining over 40% market share consistently for several years. Our product has been cherished by customers for over 65 years, and we proudly boast a membership of over 3 million in the Club One Loyalty Program. With a combined history of Tallink and Silja Line brand vessels sailing on the Baltic Sea for 65 years in 2022, Tallink Grupp is the maritime giant of the Northern region of the Baltic Sea. The company, with its maritime history strongly rooted in the Finnish, Estonian and Swedish maritime traditions, is a key maritime transport provider in the Nordic and Baltic regions, connecting people and businesses in the countries surrounding the glorious Baltic Sea.

The greatest priority for Tallink both on land and at sea is the safety of its passengers, and we shall not hesitate to invest money and time in increasing safety.

Tallink complies with international safety regulations and with the requirements of the ISO 14000 environmental management standard in order to prevent accidents and the presence of danger to people and the environment. Our safety management system is audited every year by the experts of the independent risk assessment organization Lloyds Register, and Estonian, Swedish and Finnish maritime administrations.

Tallink aims to comply with the regulations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and to guarantee that our operations are safe for passengers as well as crew members. Since our employees are the key to guaranteeing safety, we are constantly developing their skills by training them. The proper procedure for crew members in emergency situations is practiced in drills and tests which are carefully monitored by inspection authorities.

All our vessels are equipped with life-saving and survival equipment which meets all requirements and is ready for use all day, every day, and all year round. Even so, the crews of Tallink and Silja vessels use their great expertise and long-term work experience, combined with an efficient safety system, in order to prevent the need to ever use the life-saving equipment.

There are a number of very important international regulations to ensure safe and secure passenger shipping. Tallink follows these regulations with the utmost punctuality.

Tallink Grupp has been reporting on the company’s sustainability activities, including the Group’s environmental strategies and plans, governance, social contribution annually and systematically already since the early 2000s.

The methodologies and standards used as a basis for this have changed and improved over the years, ranging from the Global Reporting Initiative to the United Nations SDGs.

We are proud of signing the company’s first sustainability-linked loan with its syndicate banks in late 2022, its loan margins linked to the company’s ESG performance and sustainability KPIs (emissions reductions and employee health and safety) for the first time. In 2023-2024, the Group will further work on embedding a sustainability culture across the group and enhance ESG governance on company board levels.

We are making significant efforts across the Group’s fleet to minimise marine and air pollution, increase energy efficiency, control the use of chemicals and other pollutants, save resources and reduce waste wherever possible. The Group’s vessels are managed and operated in full compliance with the MARPOL (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) and its amendments.

We continue to operate strictly under a zero spill policy. The Group’s objective is to avoid any pollution of the marine environment by maintaining the highest standards of ships’ technical condition, safety and crew competencies, and complying with all legal requirements. In addition, the entire group with its activities is committed to continuous improvement of the operations and meeting its goals.

We are expecting further developments in addition to the already enforced measures introduced by IMO as short-term solutions (EEXI, CII). In 2022, the Group’ Ship management branch maintained its ISO 14001:2015 certified status of its Environmental Management System forming an integral part of its Safety Management System. The surveillance audit was successfully completed, and the certified status was successfully maintained.

The Group still participates in an EU project TWIN PORT 3, which focuses on the reduction of the environmental impact of the increasing Ro-Pax ferry traffic and continues to improve the multimodal transport link between Helsinki and Tallinn. As one of the outputs of this project, the onshore power supply systems are developed and operational in Tallinn Old City Harbour, Helsinki South and West Harbour, and Stockholm Värtahamnen Harbour. In these ports, our vessels can connect with shore power to reduce air emissions and noise in the city centres of the named capital cities.

Auto-mooring systems have been actively used in Tallinn Old City Harbour and in Helsinki West Harbour by our Shuttle ships. This enables our shuttle ships Star, Megastar and, as a new addition to our fleet – MyStar, to optimise time and human resources while in port. This technology enables us to perform mooring operations more efficiently, meanwhile reducing air emissions, noise, and saving time. We continue to focus on possible projects that would help us improve our fleet’s energy efficiency. It is our priority to optimise fuel consumption and by doing that also our fleet’s GHG emissions, as the latter is going to be a major area for Regulators (in the EU and in IMO).

We prioritize efficiency in the management of all our vessels. Our ship management team consistently seeks solutions to maximize the reduction of fuel consumption and decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We actively engage our passengers and clients in our sustainability initiatives, encouraging actions such as water and electricity conservation, reduction of food waste, and minimizing plastic usage, among others.

At Tallink Silja Line, we are committed to making a positive impact on society through various social responsibility initiatives. Here are some of the projects and partnerships we are involved in:

Kummit Ry

Kummit Ry is a charity organization established in 1993, supporting children’s departments in five University Hospitals in Finland.

Since 2011, Tallink Silja has collaborated with Kummit Ry, contributing €350,000 for the purchase of medical devices for hospitals in Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere.

We organize memorable cruises for families with sick children, aiming to bring joy and support to the small patients’ hospital lives.

Hope Ry

Hope Ry supports families with low income and victims of crises by distributing clothes and goods for everyday life.

Since 2017, Tallink Silja has worked with Hope Ry, donating €90,000 to support disadvantaged children and youngsters in their hobbies.

We offer annual family cruises for Hope families, and our staff actively participates in events to help volunteers.

Santa Claus Foundation

Tallink Silja is the Official Seacarrier of The Santa Claus and an official partner of The Santa Claus Foundation.

The Santa Claus Foundation focuses on conscious work ethics and good morals, bringing hope and joy to children in need around the world.

Tallink Silja contributes to various charity projects, such as donations for child psychiatry, clean water initiatives, and support for families with disabled children.

Junior Sports

We have long-term partnerships with several junior sports clubs in Finland, aiming to promote a sporty lifestyle for every child.

The collaboration includes support for ice hockey and football clubs, enabling reasonable hobby fees, and providing trained coaches with professional training methods.

Blood Donating

Blood donation is a vital part of Tallink Silja’s responsibility work.

Our staff, organized into a blood group, regularly makes group trips to blood donation centres.
Recognized by the Red Cross Blood Center, our blood group has been awarded for its persistent blood-donating efforts.

We are dedicated to creating a positive impact on children, families, and communities, fostering a better life for everyone. Our commitment extends to health, education, and overall well-being.

We’d love to know your thoughts and views of travelling by sea across the Baltic. To us, this seems like an amazing way of joining up our Sustainable Journeys in Estonia, Finland and Sweden in a way far better than flying.

Editorial submission – 26th February 2024