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, aids to maritime transport, legal issues concerning shipping, and maritime environmental legislation.
About 90 per cent of Finland’s exports and around 70 per cent of imports are transported by sea. The continued development of Finnish maritime transport and ensuring its competitiveness are essential.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications also represents Finland in international organizations, the principal one being the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The organization regulates transport on international waters through decisions binding on its member states. The Ministry is also active 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. The objective is to bolster and coordinate better the EU activities 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 wants to maintain the competitiveness of shipping and ensure domestic employment in the sector. In view of this, a tonnage tax system has been introduced. In the system aiming at decreasing manning costs, a shipping company is exempted from tax withholdings, and the employer’s payments are reimbursed.
The system that was originally applied to cargo vessels was extended to cover passenger vessels at the end of 2007. Aids to maritime transport amount every year to around 95 million euros.
International cooperation and treaties play an extremely important role in ensuring vessel safety. One example of EU-level cooperation is the decision to accelerate the introduction of double-hull tankers.
The Ministry has been an active participant 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 (upkeep of fairways), Arctia Shipping Ltd (shipping company, ice breaking) and Finnpilot Pilotage Ltd (piloting operations).