"Attention all shipping, here is the current ice forecast..."

Golf Stream keeps the coasts of Iceland and Norway ice free in winter too, but you do not have to head to Svalbard, to Greenland or beyond the Kola peninsula to come across Arctic shipping conditions and ice. There can be ice for up to 200 days in a year in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea.

Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute have an important task to carry out. Every autumn they start to publish an ice chart. First it is done just twice a week, then when the ice cover expands and gets thicker the ice chart is sent out every day until there is no more sightings of ice and all of it has melted. This ice chart is studied very carefully by every captain, who intends to steer his vessel to Finnish or Swedish ports that are surrounded by ice. In the case of the bottom of the Baltic, the very top part of the Bothnian Bay, this usually stretches all the way from beginning of November to end of May. This means that the ships travelling to the northern most ports of the Baltic Sea have to be able to cope with ice for up to seven months in a year.

The ice chart does not only tell the thickness, extent or type of ice, it also includes information about the ice breakers working in the the area. Keeping the shipping lanes free of ice would not be possible without a large ice breaker fleet, which is employed by Swedish and Finnish maritime authorities. The ice chart includes also information about the restrictions to navigation and to assistance, which the authorities in both countries have issued for shipping. The ships have to meet certain minimum ice class classification and tonnage in order to sail in icy waters. The ice breakers can open up a path for the ships so that they can reach their destination, but sometimes thy have to even offer towing assistance to ships immobilised by ice. The waiting times can get long, as there is tens of ports to be served and kept open, whereas there is even greater number of ships, which are heading there. But without ice breakers the trade and traffic to many ports would seize altogether. Ice breakers and the ice chart keep the flow of goods and raw materials in and out going. Check the latest ice chart and shipping activity in the same area below!