As long ago as 1958 there were plans for a boat link between Grisslehamn in Sweden and Eckerö on Åland. This is the shortest route over the Sea of Åland. This is also the exact route that farmers (postrotebönder) from Roslagen and Åland had used for centuries, in all weathers, to transport mail bags and one or two frozen passengers, from Sweden to Finland and Russia via Åland..
There was a great deal of interest in tourism as early as the first half of the 20th Century and several farms operated as guest houses during the summer. When cars became more common in the 1950s, plans started to be drawn up for large-scale passenger traffic. On 18 July 1958, Swedish municipal politicians arrived in Eckerö on board the coast guard’s boat in order to discuss a ferry link with the residents of Åland. The shipping company Rederiet Grisslehamn-Eckerö was formed in Sweden; they were to operate the vessel. In Eckerö, the company Trafikbolaget Åland-Grisslehamn was given the task of building a ferry port there.
Using a motor boat equipped with a sonic depth finder, a couple of Eckerö captains measured the water depth around potential beaches. Berghamn, with its water depth of at least eight metres was selected, and a 500 metre section of road was built from Storby down to the sea. The construction of the port commenced. There was a shortage of funds and many Eckerö residents got involved and helped with the digging.
When M/S Rospiggen undertook her maiden voyage on 19 July 1960 she carried about 20 cars and up to 200 passengers. She was the first car and passenger ferry that had been commissioned solely for traffic on the Sea of Åland and the newspaper Norrtelje Tidning described her as wide and stable: “floats like a swan and turns on a sixpence”. But in practice, it turned out that she was not at all ideal for this route. Her cruising speed was too slow and there were too few services. Greater tonnage was required..
Many ships have come and gone over the years on the shortest route over the Sea of Åland – please have a look at the company and ship history that is presented on the wall in the Berghamn terminal. In many areas the tone was set right from the start. Package trips from Sweden to Finland were developed during the first season, the tax-free sales attracted passengers and the prawn sandwiches quickly became a speciality that was a luxury at the time.
Early on, there were signals from the Swedish-owned shipping company that their finances were weak and they hoped that the shipping operations would be transferred to Åland. On 2 March 1991, Rederiaktiebolaget Eckerö was formed. The shipping company, which was casually called Eckerölinjen eventually took on the marketing name Eckerö Linjen.
The company has developed considerably over the years. The standards and capacities of the ships have improved and operations have become more clearly focused on tourism, recreation and entertainment. Today, the shipping company is a highly regarded travel group operating different routes, a travel agency and buses. But the core of the operation is still the traffic on the traditional route between Grisslehamn and Eckerö.