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 Maritime Transport Strategy for Finland is a comprehensive outlook for 2014-2022 that serves the economy, business and employment in Finland and incorporates new environmental norms. The strategy analyses changes that have taken place in recent years, as well as coming challenges and includes a ready vision for 2030. Additionally, the strategy lists procedures that have been recognised as fundamental for achieving this vision.
The strategy's key objective is to ensure the working capacity of maritime transport to and from Finland and maritime business and industry, while simultaneously taking the national economy's competitiveness and environmental and safety issues into account.
In 2009, the EU drew up the European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), the purpose of which is to promote effective EU activities in the EU's Baltic region.
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).