Archive for Ferries
As we reported here earlier https://europeansmallislands.com/2016/11/20/island-residents-treated-as-guinea-pigs-says-finnish-newspaper-2/, the Finnish government planned to make big changes in the existing ferry fares system.
Referring to the feedback she has got during the last months, Minster Anne Berner today announced she has decided to call of the planned experiment.
At the EESC Public Hearing 7th of February, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula mentioned that the islands of Europe, if grouped together, would rank as Europe’s ninth nation. I double-checked him, making a table based on Wikipedia, from which I excluded islands that are nations (Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta) but included all the remaining 2.136 ones, summing up their areas and their populations.
The result is a complex, widespread, divided, illusive island nation with an area of 454,753 km2 and with 18,889,077 inhabitants. Were it a nation, it would population-wise place itself after Romania but before Kazakstan. Counting by area, it would rank as the 4th nation of Europe, just after Norway. Assuming humans are more important than land, the islands of Europe grouped together would rank as the number 11 among the 50 sovereign states of Europe. Were it a nation, it might be called ISLANDIA.
Is this 11th nation of Europe different from the other 28 nations of Europe? Yes: it has some very valuable assets: (1) shores, that attract hundreds of millions of tourists every year; (2) seas, that contain tides, waves, oil, gas, fish, motorways of the seas as well as more ordinary waterways; (3) unrivalled natural and cultural heritages.
This 11th imaginary nation also has an invisible obstacle surrounding it: remoteness – a permanent handicap causing extra costs for its small-scale societies, enterprises and inhabitants. There are 671 ro-pax ferries connecting the islands with the mainland. On the one thousand smaller islands, 38% of the total energy spent is used for sea transports, larger islands somewhat less. To reengineer these sea transport systems would be an economical, ecological and social revolution.
In Finland, the government is keen to promote digital business and new business models. To this end, free traffic service in the archipelago is said to prevent commercial producers of transportation services to gain entry into the market and impairs the possibility of developing a free traffic service market in the area, said the Finnish Ministry of Communication in a memorandum yesterday.
This is causing much agitation among the islanders in Finland.
The draft regulation proposes that a reasonable fee should be charged for traffic and transport services that government partly subsidies. There would be no exceptions for the residents of these islands.
Finnish newspaper Åbo Underättelser (covering the Turku area embracing the largest archipelago of Finland) says this is a severe discrimination of the 500 residents: The government has no idea what it is doing. They use the islanders as guinea pigs. This is not only wrong, it is a direct affront to our archipelago, one of the most vulnerable areas in the nation right now. Toll service boats is the government’s way of saying that it is too expensive to serve people living in uncomfortable places in the country.
As ESIN board member Pia Prost stated in her recent article in Skärgård magazine, there are all in all 4.300 residents on about 250 islands without fixed links in Finland’s archipelagoes, out of totally 22.000 islands.
The editorial titled “An insult to the archipelago”can be read here (in Swedish) http://www.abounderrattelser.fi/news/2016/11/en-skymf-mot-skargarden.html
As a reaction to these changes in the existing ferry fares system, ESIN chairman has written a “Letter of Concern” to Finnish Minister of Communication Anne Berner (attached).
Researchers Luca De Benedictis and Anna Maria Pinna from the University of Cagliari have launched the term ‘bad geography”. They have explored the geographical dimension of insularity, measuring its effect on trade costs. An interesting report with many different aspects on insularity http://www.siecon.org/online/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/De-Benedictis.pdf.
I quote: ”Insularity is not in general considered the worst condition in terms of ’bad geography’. According to both empirical and theoretical literature, the most immediate case of exterme geographical condition is the lack of direct access to the sea. This is considered to be a fundamental cause of heterogeneity among countries. One out of four countries in the world is landlocked; in Africa, it is one out of three. On the contrary, having direct access to the sea is the geographical condition that has been found to be the most advantageous for the economy of a country: coastal countries are wealthier and experience 30% more trade than landlocked countries But the direct access to the see can generate extreme geographical conditions. Islands are completely surrounded by sea. This full land discontinuity raises costs by eliminating alternatives in the connection system of an island and by raising the level of uncertainty for the remaining alternatives. The small and remote nature of island countries should be considered in view of these characteristics, revealing the crucial physical difference between islands and coastal countries. But also not all islands are made the same.”
Benedictis and Pinna conclude that to be an island is not bad per se in terms of trade costs. Bad geography can be reversed by connectedness and open institutions.
Easy said, hard to do. Let me quote Spilanis, Kizos and Petsioti “Accessibility of Peripheral Regions: Evidence from Aegean Islands”: On islands, where “everyday transportation is not available, many services are provided locally even if their quality or variety may not always satisfy local needs. Therefore, the increase of the availability of intermediate services locally in bigger mainland settlements is unsurprising, since the size of the population justifies the provision of private services (selling furniture, electric appliances, home products, physiotherapy services) and the existence of public services (tax office, town planning). Establishing and maintaining such services in areas where the level of population is lower than the threshold for its “spontaneous” emergence raises the cost for both private and public services. For public services, a revealing example is provided by ESPON (2011) for Notio Aigaio Region (40 inhabited islands). If all its population was living on one island, a maximum of three ports would be sufficient, while now there are 50, along with 14 airports instead of one, 21 power production plants instead of one, five hospitals instead of one, 90 primary schools instead of 211, 35 waste water treatment units instead of eight, and so on.“
If the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea (Notio Aigaio) could be grouped together, life would be so much simpler for everyone. Same thing were they municipalities in Germany. I believe they do suffer from ‘bad geography’.
Some Aegean islands grouped together
Some of the Aegean islands migrated to Germany (adapted from Jean-Didier Hache, CPMR)
A ferry crisis is facing Inis Mor as the current service to the island is set to be withdrawn on Sunday, amid controversy over an 80 cent passenger levy.
While Irish politicians are arguing about whose fault this may be, in a matter of days, Inis Mor will be left without any service – and it’s being suggested that the Irish Navy may be forced to step in.