The Ministry of Transport and Communications is responsible for maritime policy in Finland, for drafting maritime legislation and for contributing to any legislative drafting at EU level. The Ministry deals with matters concerning the safety of waterborne traffic, aid to maritime transport, legal questions of shipping, and the associated environmental legislation.
About 90 per cent of Finland's exports and around 70 per cent of imports are transported by sea. It is crucial that Finnish maritime transport be developed systematically and that its competitiveness be ensured.
The Ministry represents Finland in international organisations, the principal one being the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which regulates transport on international waters through decisions binding on its member states. The Ministry also takes active part in the work of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (known as the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM).
The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region was adopted in 2009. Its purpose is to increase the efficiency of the EU in the Baltic Sea Region. The Strategy comprises 15 priority areas, and Finland is in charge of coordinating four of them. Together with the Danish Maritime Authority, the Ministry of Transport and Communications is responsible for the implementation of the priority area for maritime safety and security.
Finland seeks to maintain the competitiveness of shipping and ensure domestic jobs in the sector. In view of this, a tonnage taxation system has been introduced. In this system, aimed at decreasing manning costs, a shipping company is exempted from tax withholdings, and the employer's payments are reimbursed.
The system was originally applied to cargo vessels, but at the end of 2007, it was extended to cover passenger vessels, too. Aid to maritime transport amounts to around EUR 95 million per year.
International cooperation and agreements are central to ensuring safe maritime transport. One example of EU level cooperation is the decision to accelerate the introduction of double-hull tankers.
The Ministry has taken active part in the development of the Vessel Traffic Management and Information Service (VTMIS) for traffic using the international waters of the Gulf of Finland. In the VTMIS system introduced in 2004, Finland, Russia and Estonia together monitor shipping in the Gulf of Finland, and the vessels themselves have a reporting obligation.
The Ministry's administrative branch in shipping comprises the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (maritime safety), the Finnish Transport Agency (traffic systems, fairways), Meritaito Ltd (maintenance of fairways), Arctia Shipping Ltd (shipping company and ice breaking operations) and Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd (pilotage).