The new lease agreement on the Saimaa Canal will enter into force on 17 February 2012.
The scope of application of the agreement will be expanded from goods transport to also cover passenger traffic, icebreaking, pilotage and overnight stays of pleasure crafts. The traffic rights will be expanded, and passenger ships from third countries will also be able to use the canal.
In addition, the administration of the Saimaa Canal will be reformed. A Saimaa Canal office, to be situated in Lappeenranta, will be established under the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The Saimaa Canal Administrative Committee will be abolished, and the Saimaa Canal Commission will be established in its place. In addition, the aim is to establish a broad-based delegation for negotiations that would include, upon invitation, representatives of the authorities as well as of the inhabitants and businesses in the area of the Saimaa water system.
In addition, the status of the Canal Delegate will be specified further in the new lease agreement. Also, a separate decree is being prepared in Finland on the qualification requirements and duties of the Canal Delegate. The Canal Delegate will be appointed by the Government for a five year term upon proposal by the Minister of Transport.
There will be a proposal to increase fees collected from Canal users, as the amount of lease paid by Finland to Russia will be quadrupled. The need to increase the fees amounts to some 30 per cent, in which case they would return to the level before 2002.
The payments will be determined based on the size and type of vessels and craft. As a change to the previous arrangement, it is proposed that the cheapest payment category be extended from ships in Ice Class 1A to also cover ships in Ice Class 1B.
Pleasure crafts will be exempted from the fees, as collecting the fees has proved more expensive than the amount of funds gained as a result. In addition, the maximum fee collected from passenger ships will be changed so that the fee will be collected from the first 30 journeys. The aim is for the payment decree to be presented during February, and for it to enter into force before the start of the next sailing season. The next sailing season has been agreed to start on 9 April 2012.
The fixed basic amount of lease paid by Finland is EUR 1.22 million annually. This is supplemented by an amount variable according to traffic volumes.
Further information: Ms Silja Ruokola, Senior Government Adviser, tel. +358 9 160 28367 or +358 40 580 0894