Starting on Tuesday 16 June, the first ever electric ferry experiment in the Helsinki archipelago will run between Vartiosaari and Laajasalo. Photo: Mente Marine

An electric ferry will start operating between Vartiosaari and Laajasalo – an idea brought up via the city’s participatory budgeting

Starting on Tuesday 16 June, the first ever electric ferry experiment in the Helsinki archipelago will run between Vartiosaari and Laajasalo. The ferry crosses the Reposalmi strait every week from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 8 pm until 23 August. Six passengers at a time are allowed on board. The ferry has no timetable but operates as a calling service with the Callboats mobile app. To use the ferry, you must download the application on your mobile device and then use the app to call the ferry. One-way ticket for the ferry ride is one euro for children and young people aged between 7-17 and two euros for adults.

The idea for the ferry initiated in Helsinki’s participatory budgeting service OmaStadi. The proposal for an electric ferry running to Vartiosaari received 1,626 votes in total at the OmaStadi voting and proceeded to the implementation phase. This summer’s ferry connection is the first experiment on the subject. The City of Helsinki innovation company Forum Virium was looking for a place to test a new type of Callboats ferry and a timely need was found in Vartiosaari.

“This is really an interesting new experiment that will increase the recreational opportunities of city dwellers and visitors alike in the heart of Helsinki. Many thanks to Helsinki’s participatory budgeting and those who originally came up with the idea in the OmaStadi service in Vartiosaari and Laajasalo and made it possible for the idea to be implemented in practice, and thus for the ferry connection to exist in the first place. This kind of innovative outcome of a joint development between the city’s residents, experts and business sector is in itself a rather historical achievement,” rejoices Minttu Perttula, project manager for Helsinki Maritime Strategy.

“In addition, the services in Vartiosaari will be further developed this summer with the creating of a new outdoor trail, signposts and toilets,” Perttula continues.

Take the covered catamaran to enjoy the outdoors in Vartiosaari

The distance from Vartiosaari to Laajasalo across the Reposalmi strait is approximately 150 metres. The ferry, an electric covered catamaran, runs for most of the day when the batteries are fully charged but short charging breaks may occur even during the day, especially at times of heavy traffic.

“The batteries of the electric ferry are mainly charged during night time at the pier. There are also solar panels on the roof of the catamaran collecting energy for the batteries, especially on sunny days,” says Peter Ostberg, CEO for Mente Marine Ltd, the company which developed the Callboats ferry and application.

The ferry connection operating this summer is Helsinki’s first experiment with electric ferries but Ostberg envisions to have several similar electric ferries in Helsinki and the whole metropolitan area. Some of them could even operate autonomously, i.e. without a driver. This summer, however, the electric ferry that sails across Reposalmi will have a captain.

“We have hired four skippers for the summer who will transport outdoor enthusiasts for the whole summer from Tuesday to Sunday until 23 August, when Vartiosaari Day is celebrated. Mondays are reserved for possible upcoming ferry maintenance work,” continues Matti Nieminen, CEO of Matson Ltd which is responsible for the operating of the ferry in traffic.

“It’s great to bring a Finnish vehicle of the future and a smart mobility service to be tested on the summer waves. This summer we will learn to move in the archipelago in a new way,” adds Raimo Tengvall, project manager of the Mobility Launchpad project at Forum Virium Helsinki.

Helsinki’s maritime strategy outlines the development of the service supply and attractiveness of the archipelago and the waterfront until year 2030. The goal is to develop the maritime services and the accessibility of the maritime locations, to promote maritime events and to stay on course opening up the nearby archipelago for recreational use.

The Mobility Launchpad project coordinated by Forum Virium Helsinki helps to develop new business on smart mobility. The project is funded by the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and the European Regional Development Fund.

Photo: Mente Marine