The Baltic sea is one of the world's busiest shipping routes, with around 15% of the world's freight transport passing through it. Around 90% of Finnish exports and 70% of imports are transported by sea via Finnish seaports (a total of 94.9 million tonnes in 2016) and around 19 million passengers are carried by passenger ships every year (18.9 million in 2016). Around 30,000 vessels sailing to and from other countries call at Finnish seaports every year.
Because of the international nature of shipping, the legal framework is mostly global in scope and is created by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a United Nations specialised agency. The most important international convention on protecting the marine environment is the MARPOL Convention. The Baltic Sea has been designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area in the regulations of the MARPOL Convention with respect to pollution by oil, sewage, garbage and air emissions. In addition, the whole of the Baltic Sea with the exception of Russian territorial waters has been designated by the IMO as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). The additional safety regulations for PSSAs increase the safety of maritime navigation and reduce the amount of environmental damage.
In order to decrease the harmful environmental impacts of maritime transport, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency participates in the development of the international regulatory framework. The Agency actively participates in the work of the IMO and the EU and in the work of HELCOM to protect the environment of the Baltic Sea, all in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of the Environment and numerous stakeholder groups. The Agency is responsible for the national coordination preceding the IMO maritime environment protection committee meetings and the HELCOM MARITIME meetings.
An important task of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency is to ensure that the shipping industry meets its environmental obligations. Finnish legislation relating to the prevention of pollution from ships (such as the Act on environmental protection in maritime transport) is based on the MARPOL Convention, the EU acquis, and the 1992 Convention on the protection of the marine environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention). The Agency assists the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of the Environment in preparing national legislation, and it is authorized to issue technical regulations.
In order to ensure that a ship sailing under the Finnish flag complies with all environmental requirements, the ship has to be surveyed. Ship surveys are carried out by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency's regional inspection units, recognized classification societies, and external surveyors nominated by the Agency. As an indication that a ship fulfils the requirements, it is provided with the international certificates that relate to environmental protection regulations and the carriage of noxious and harmful substances. On a case-by-case basis, and where permitted by law, the Agency may grant exemptions and dispensations.
As part of its overview of maritime transport, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency conducts port state control inspections of foreign ships in order to verify that they comply with the international conventions. The Agency also conducts remote monitoring of the sulphur content of ships' fuel and by taking samples from the ships' fuel tanks.
The Agency's duties
The Agency's customers are primarily shipping companies, ships, ports and shippers.