Viking Line was established in 1959, and from the beginning, it combined passenger cruises with freight storage and transportation. At the start, the cargo mostly consisted of motor vehicles, but as the company progressed through the decades, it enlarged the variety of cargo it would haul, but it has always stuck with rolling cargo.
“We concentrate on rolling cargo because we use downtown ports,” Harri Tamminnen, Vice President of Freight for Viking Line, says. “At downtown ports, the handling possibilities for cargo are very limited.”
Another reason the line sticks to smaller rolling cargo is that it does not focus on the industrial freight sector because the company has no interest in competing with its clientele.
Viking Line, true to its name, concentrates its services in and around Scandinavia and Northeastern Europe. The company runs cruises and freight transport between Finland, Sweden, Estonia and the Åland Islands.
Because of the company’s professionalism and habit of operating in fixed time-schedule traffic, it has gained a deserved reputation for being extremely reliable. This reliable reputation leads leisure and commercial customers to keep coming back year after year.
“We develop our business in cooperation with our clients,” says Mr. Tamminnen. “We try to become a partner for our clients in their trade and in their leisure time. The clients’ opinions of the company are very important to all employees of Viking Line.”
For the freight side of the business, the company sticks to a traditional marketing approach. “We have our own dedicated sales team that does a great job handling the marketing demands of the freight half of the company,” says Mr. Tamminnen.
The passenger side of the business uses social media as a large part of its marketing strategy. “Passengers like to be able to interact with the company on social media and quickly see all the new and exciting Viking Line offers,” says Mr. Tamminnen.
Coupled with the company’s traditional and less traditional marketing approaches is its competitive pricing model. Passengers and corporate freight clients continue to use Viking Line not only for its reliability, but also for its affordable prices.
Even if the company is not always the cheapest on the market, customers still exhibit a certain amount of brand loyalty because the level of quality remains consistently high. Viking Line currently has around 1,000 commercial clients per year and transported over six million private passengers in 2014.
A second way the company stays ahead of the competition is by renewing its past exploration and interest in intermodality. “In our case, that means that some of our big clients are interested in using inland railway connections to and from our ports,” explains Mr. Tamminnen.
Intermodal freight transport is once again gaining in popularity because of the added security it offers commercial clients. The freight is able to move across multiple modes of transportation (ship, truck, rail) without anyone having to handle the actual freight between the different forms of transportation. This means that the freight is able to stay in its original sealed container, which is comforting for the corporate client that worries about the well-being of his/her investment.
“There is currently a big demand in Sweden for intermodal freight transportation,” says Mr. Tamminnen. “We try to find long-term solutions with serious operators, and we also help manage the communication between these operators and our customer base.”
Importantly, Viking Line not only cares for its private passengers and corporate clientele. It is also committed to minimizing its environmental impact. The majority of the company’s ships run on diesel oil that has a sulphur content of less than 0.1% by weight. The newest vessel, the Viking Grace, runs on liquefied natural gas, which is sulphur free. Two of the company’s vessels operate using a land-based electricity supply, which decreases engine noise and air emissions while in port.
In addition to the aforementioned environmentally friendly practices, Viking Line is also careful never to discharge any wastewater into the sea.
“All wastewater is collected and pumped ashore to municipal wastewater treatment plants,” says Mr. Tamminnen. The company has active interests in protecting and conserving the Baltic Sea and has partnered with the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) to ensure a cleaner sea for humans and animals alike.
In 2014, the company’s tireless environmental efforts were recognized when its vessel, the Viking Grace, won the Skål International Tourism Award.
“When the Viking Grace received the award, the judges said that the ship is the most environmentally friendly cruise ship worldwide,” says Mr. Tamminnen. “We pride ourselves on setting the environmental standard for the industry.”
Looking to the future, Viking Line is keeping its eyes open for new business opportunities. Some interest has been expressed in expanding its services to Russia, but the company is holding off on expanding further east until certain economic situations become clearer.
However, geographically, Russia is as far of an expansion as the company is considering at this time. “Regardless of whether the expansion happens or not, Viking Line will continue to stay true to its core value of providing excellent customer service in the private and commercial sectors,” states Mr. Tamminnen.