To facilitate trade in winter time, icebreakers from Finland and Sweden help out by keeping ice routes open, helping ships that get stuck. In addition, as they are aware of the shifting ice conditions in the area, they advise merchant ships what to do by issuing iceroutes. The icebreakers work closely with Ice info in Sweden and Bothnia VTS in Finland.
Traditionally the ice routes have been delivered via radio, e-mail or AIS message. Now a fourth option is in use: Sea Traffic Management, through the Winter Navigation Service (WNS). With WNS all icebreakers and relevant shore centres are connected.
A ship that uses the winter navigation services is 'M/T Steel', which sails the Gulf of Bothnia pushing ice-classed barges. Navigation Officer Denmark Jalandoni shared his views on winter navigation services, by saying that:
It is of big help. When we are busy it helps by reducing the workload a lot. Without STM the normal procedure is to get an email with the ice route coordinates. We then transfer the coordinates manually into the ECDIS. This is ok if there are one or two waypoints but when there are more it helps a lot to get them directly to the ECDIS, with the STM winter navigation service
Mr. Jalandoni also added that they have tried other STM services as well, such as route cross-check before leaving port, and the pilot route service. The services integrate the pilot routes into the voyage plan before leaving port.
This can be proven very useful especially for ports where there is a choice of many fairways. By having the exact same route in ECIDS as the pilot in his tool, gives us common situational awareness and increases safety.