The Estonian maritime industry relies on centuries of traditions and expertise
Estonia has a rich history of maritime traditions owing to its geographical location – with over 2000 islands and well over 200 harbours and marinas along its 3000-kilometre coastline, everything nautical simply comes naturally to this seafaring nation. Adding some renowned IT skills to the equation puts the chef’s kiss on the success of Estonia’s maritime industry.
Papa Hemingway wrote in his book “To Have and Have Not” that “No well-run yacht basin in Southern waters is complete without at least two sunburned, salt bleached-headed Estonians”. These days we are certainly approaching the moment when no well-run yacht basins anywhere in the world are complete without at least two vessels meticulously crafted in Estonia. Vessels of multiple sizes and made of various materials are used in naval, rescue, energy, research and ice-breaking operations across the world.
Estonia’s strategic location, competitive business environment and maritime traditions form the essence of why Estonia is a location of choice for the maritime industry. Standing at the crossroads between the East and the West and the North and the South, Estonia has played a crucial part in world trade for centuries, once belonging to the Hanseatic League, a medieval predecessor to the current European Union. In modern times, entrepreneurship in the maritime sector is encouraged by the excellent business environment, stable government and a moderate cost level.
The so-called “blue economy” that refers to the maritime industry forms approximately 4 per cent of Estonia’s GDP and 90 per cent of production is exported to destinations both near and far, with Sweden, Germany and Finland topping the list. Estonia focuses on a niche maritime sector that provides design, prototyping and production of small and medium-sized commercial and leisure vehicles, electronics and specialised equipment.
Competence centres such as TalTech’s Estonian Maritime Academy provide the sector with qualified specialists who excel at the practical application of modern methods. Higher than average salaries in the maritime industry has increased the popularity of employment in the sector, with over 1000 people working in Estonian ship-building companies. The added value of vessel manufacturing companies per employee is one of the highest in Estonia.
The maritime industry in Estonia benefits greatly from the country’s high level of ICT competence. Digital boats are created in the design phase, allowing clients to customise their vessels to exact specifications without sacrificing performance or incurring additional costs. Sensors and bespoke software solutions ensure accurate prototyping and testing. While the manufacturing of larger parts is fully automated, the finishing touches often require a degree of handcrafted elements to highlight the uniqueness of each vessel. The seamless integration of automation and handcraft create high-quality and fully certified safe vessels.
Estonia takes pride in being one of the most open and competitive economies in the world. The country’s compact size allows for closer cooperation between networks of educational and research institutions, companies and the public sector. Decision-makers are accessible and flexible to requests for bespoke solutions and individual commercial terms. The reliability and trustworthiness of Estonians as business partners has established a reputation that precedes Estonians in their export ventures, being well-known for their attention to detail and quality and competitive pricing.
Leveraging its advantages in flexibility and reputation as one of the world’s most digitally enabled nations, Estonia aims to become the centre of excellence in marine R&D, environmental sustainability and digitalisation. TalTech’s and Port of Tallinn’s Smart Port solutions are already in active use in Estonia and on the brink of expanding beyond Estonia’s borders. The Maritime Single Window solution for facilitating cross-border trade is in its pilot phase and Cybernetica’s systems and equipment for marine communication, surveillance and navigation are in use all around the world. These are just a few examples of the success stories of the Estonian maritime industry, as local researchers relentlessly continue their endeavours to make Estonia the world’s competence centre in maritime cybersecurity.
Whether you seek inspiration for innovation or high-quality production opportunities within a highly digital environment, Estonia offers a scalable and competitive Northern European hub for maritime businesses.
What is it like to trade with Estonia? How to benefit from the e-solutions and the efficiency of our business culture? What are the opportunities in specific sectors?
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