Suomenlinnan Liikenne Oy was established in August in 1950, and the Suomenlinna ferry has operated between Kauppatori and the fortress islands since 1952.
Before the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, the Suomenlinna fortress was a closed military area, and its traffic was operated by a separate unit of the Defense Forces, Varuskunnan Laivaliikenne with four steamboats. They were not able to travel through frozen waters, so traffic stopped during winters. Suomenlinna could only be reached by walking along ice roads from Kaivopuisto or by car from the end of the cape Katajanokka.
The first ferry was M/S Suomenlinna – Sveaborg
For the summer Olympics in 1952, the City of Helsinki wanted to improve Suomenlinna fortess as a tourist attraction. A ferry was needed to replace the steamboats. It was designed and built on the Suomenlinna shipyard. The contractor was Valtion Metallitehdas (Valmet), the state’s metal works factory.
It was the first combined passenger and car ferry in Finland and it was named as Suomenlinna – Sveaborg. The ferry started regular traffic at the beginning of May in 1952 and it had the honour of transporting olympic tourists during the same summer. The ferry also received its own pavilion in the corner of Kauppatori in May 1953.
M/S Suomenlinna – Sveaborg transfomed into Suokki
Suomenlinna – Sveaborg served Suomenlinnan Liikenne Oy loyally until 2004, after which it was sold to Sun Lines Oy. The ferry still operates between Kauppatori and Suomenlinna under the name M/S Suokki.
Suokki was renovated in 2012. In the extensive basic renovations, the ferry’s old two-stroke diesel engine from the 1960’s was removed and replaced with two engines with lower emission values. In addition to the basic renovations of the machinery and related control technology, the rescue rafts were renewed and new fire extinguishing systems installed.
Ferry traffic included in the city’s combined rates
The ferry traffic of Suomenlinnan Liikenne was included in the ticket system of Helsinki City Transport in 1971. In these combined rates, the Suomenlinna ferry was counted to the first zone, i.e. the central city zone.
Since 2010, the traffic operations have been ordered by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL), a municipal association.
M/S Ehrensvärd as service ferry
The service ferry M/S Ehrensvärd started operations in 1978. It was built in the Holming shipyard in Rauma.
At the start of its operations, the main purpose of the ferry was to transport vehicles between the terminal at the end of cape Katajanokka and the cargo dock in Suomenlinna. At that time, district heating work was carried out in Suomenlinna, and therefore Ehrensvärd transported tens of workers and trucks every day.
Ehrensvärd was docked in autumn 1999 for basic renovations, and at the turn of the millennium, the ferry received new main engines and rudder propeller equipment. They made the ferry operations more economical and also improved the ferry’s ability to travel through ice. The route and timetable of the service ferry have not changed much: It still travels between the end of cape Katajanokka and the Suomenlinna service dock every weekday from approximately half past seven in the morning to half past three in the afternoon. Katajanokka was chosen as the departure location so that the vans and trucks delivering goods would not disturb the passengers in Kauppatori
Suomenlinna fortress as a Unesco World Heritage site
The attraction of the fortress islands of Suomenlinna increased further when it was listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1991.
Suomenlinna II – From Poland to Kauppatori
The youngest member of the Suomenlinna ferries is Suomenlinna II, completed in 2004. The ferry was built in Naval Shipyard Gdynia S.A. in Poland.
The bidding competition for the ferry was won by Danish Johs. Gram-Hanssen Product Ltd., which decided to build the Suomenlinna II ferry in Poland.