Safety must be actively monitored for lighthouses to continue to be used for tourism. Many lighthouses of historical interest have had to be shut down for safety reasons. To the delight of prospective visitors, the Säppi lighthouse off Pori passed the fire inspection that is conducted every five years.
Väylä regularly commissions safety inspections at its lighthouses in order to ensure that as many of them as possible can be kept open for tourism. This summer, it was time for the five-yearly fire inspection at Säppi lighthouse, conducted by the Satakunta Rescue Department. Risto Lappalainen, occupational safety and health expert at Väylä, conducted a general safety inspection at the lighthouse at the same time.
“Comprehensive safety is paramount. It is the job of Väylä to conduct safety inspections and to make repairs at lighthouses, but some inspections are the responsibility of the relevant authorities, such as this summer’s fire inspection,” says Lappalainen.
The Säppi lighthouse site has a number of buildings of historical significance: the lighthouse itself, the personnel quarters and the pilot station. Owned by Väylä, the Säppi lighthouse is leased to the Säppi 2000 association, whose purpose is to maintain the cultural milieu of the lighthouse on Säppi island. The association helps visitors tour the island and the lighthouse independently. However, Väylä remains responsible for ensuring and maintaining safety at the lighthouse.
Not all of the lighthouses owned by Väylä are suitable for tourism; some have had to be shut down for safety reasons.
“Many people wonder why Väylä would ban visitors from lighthouses. The lighthouses themselves are magnificent, of course, but some of them are simply not safe for visitors. Unfortunately, we have neither the resources nor the opportunities for keeping all our lighthouses in the best repair,” says Lappalainen with regret.
Many lighthouses still have an active navigational function
Lighthouses are for many the stuff of romantic fiction, but they have also always played an important practical role in safety at sea. Many of Finland’s lighthouses still have a navigational function. They are beacons that indicate safe shipping routes.
“Most lighthouses in Finland still have an active navigational function, although they are not nearly as important for navigation on the whole as they used to be,” says waterways management project manager Joonatan Ahlroos from Väylä. Ahlroos’s domain includes waterways in the Archipelago Sea, the Bothnian Sea and the Åland Islands.
“Navigational aids include not only lighthouses but also leading beacons, land-based lights, lateral markers, radar markers, cairns, discus buoys and spar buoys. The purpose of all these is to safeguard the passage of vessels through Finland’s rocky waters,” says Ahlroos.
Although lighthouses are not as important for navigation as they used to be, they still have an actual light. However, today the lighthouse lights are managed remotely by Väylä and not by the reclusive lighthouse keepers who used to live on site year in and year out. That said, lighthouses do retain something of their historical atmosphere, and lighthouse tourism is a leading trend in domestic tourism in Finland.