Arctia CEO steps down after a merger, slowdown in international operations

The Finnish icebreaking firm plans to use a merger to add new services as foreign icebreaking activities dry up.

By Kevin McGwin - December 21, 2018
Arctia has two ships designed designed to work in ice and carry out operations in open water. The ‘Fennica’ (pictured) has been used in the North Sea and the waters off Brazil. (Arctia)

Finnish icebreaking firm Arctia has replaced Tero Vauraste as its CEO in connection with a merger that will see the company broaden its offerings as it seeks to make up for a shrinking market for services to the offshore oil and gas industry.

Vauraste stepped down on Wednesday after leading Arctia during an expansion of the company’s activities beyond its core business of keeping Finnish ports and waterways open. Finland’s transport authorities pays Arctia to provide  those services, and in turn charge for sailing in the lanes the company clears.

In seeking to expanding beyond clearing Finnish sea lanes, Arctia sought opportunities in international operations, including ice-management and other services for the oil and gas industry, most notably for Shell Oil’s exploration program in Alaska’s offshore waters.

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International operations have been identified as way for Arctia to add a business line that will allow the ships involved in those activities to be active 80 percent of the year, compared with 30 percent for ships involved in traditional icebreaking operations.

The types of ships used in these operations are more expensive to build than traditional icebreakers, but, according to the company, the ships had paid for themselves.

At their height, operations outside Finland had made up half of Arctia’s turnover. However, in 2017 — a year in which the company lost €1.4 million ($1.6 million) — revenue from foreign operations fell by half from the previous year. The decline, it said, was due to restrictive measures that had been placed on offshore energy production in North America.

The downturn has continued in 2018. This year Arctia said it has had no international activities, a situation the company in June blamed on protectionist measures, particularly in North America and Russia, and which resulted in the layoff of 80 employees.

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Arctia intends to continue to pursue foreign ice-breaking clients, a company spokesperson said.

It had previously identified research-support as a possible source of revenue, and after a December 13 merger with Meritaito, a Finnish marine survey service and infrastructure management company, it will begin offering design, installation and servicing marine infrastructure to customers in Finland and abroad.

The combined company will be led in the interim by Arctia CFO Kim Höijer.