In connection with the fall in oil prices at the end of 2014, there was a rebound in the product tanker market with increased demand for the transportation of refined oil products. The improved market persisted throughout 2015 and contributed to an improved profit for Gotland Tankers. Capital gains on the sale of vessels also contributed to improved profits for the company, which together with increased leverage of the fleet prepares the company for the challenges it faces in the coming years. In the new agreement with Gotlandstrafiken, the operating risks are significantly greater, with higher adaptation requirements. Meanwhile two new passenger and cargo vessels are being built at the GSI yard in China, representing the company’s biggest ever investment.
Investments in Gotland’s growth have been a key activity of the company throughout its 151 years. The constant development of communications to and from Gotland has provided the island with healthy growth. The latest generation of vessels, which was introduced at the beginning of this millennium, has helped the island’s residents to more than double the amount they travel, which has in turn resulted in Gotland maintaining the size of its population, unlike other rural areas of Sweden. Our investments are a condition for achieving the objectives for Gotland’s society as expressed in both “Vision Gotland 2025” and “Sustainable growth plan for Gotland 2016-2020”.
We realised the importance of the tourism industry for the growth of Gotland back in 1896 with the founding of the Gotland Tourist Association. By developing marketing through Destination Gotland and launching “Gotland – around the world on one island”, we have seen a clear change in trends in the last two years with visitor traffic numbers up by approximately 10 per cent. Visitors are also spread more widely on the island, including in rural areas from Burgsvik in the south to Fårö in the north. Especially evident is the increased interest in the autumn, spring, and winter seasons, with an increased selection of weekend packages and new reasons to travel attracting more tourists. These recent increases must continue, and in its coming contract period, Destination Gotland has the objective of reaching two million passengers per year.
The hotel business continues to evolve. This past winter, the Gustavsvik holiday resort was rented out to the Swedish Migration Agency for newly arrived families seeking asylum. This important work for those in need is something that our employees carried out admirably.
After 151 years of operating the Gotland service, we use our awareness of the importance of communication for the development of society as our starting point when we step in to take primary responsibility for creating sustainable and stable sea traffic in the Stockholm archipelago. We see opportunities to continue developing new technology and new fuels for vessels serving the archipelago in our quest to achieve shipping with no environmentally harmful emissions. For the Gotland service, this is based on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which eliminates sulphur particles and offers 20 per cent lower CO2 emissions. We are also looking at biogas, which is produced locally on Gotland and could be cooled to complement LNG for a completely renewable source of energy. Within the archipelago service, we hope that battery and hydrogen will become a reality in the near future in a possible evolution towards future sustainable shipping.
Many thanks to all our employees and shareholders for the past year!