Maritime policy guides the use and protection of the sea

Maritime issues are by their very nature both international and cross-sectoral. International agreements set common goals and objectives. Based on these agreements, laws and regulations are created that guide, for example, the economic activities of the Baltic Sea, the use of natural resources, and maritime transport.

International cooperation is an established tradition between the nations surrounding the Baltic Sea. Partnership programmes and cooperative bodies of all sizes and levels are numerous, from networks formed by cities to thematic EU programmes.

International agreements outline common goals and objectives, while the means to achieve them are designed on a national level.

The Finnish Maritime Policy has guidelines on two levels:

  1. National policy for the conservation of oceans and seas
  2. Strategy for the Baltic Sea region.

Finland also aims to protect the Baltic Sea via programmes for assessing and monitoring the state of the Baltic Sea and the programme for measures to be taken. These programmes are implemented in cooperation with several administrative bodies.

Treaties as basis for maritime policy

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is an international agreement that covers all the Earth’s oceans and seas. It determines how sea areas are divided among nations and regulates traffic on the seas. The convention is sometimes referred to as the ‘constitution of the oceans’; as it is very extensive and almost all nations in the world have ratified it.

Finland has ratified many other treaties as well that address individual topics or have a more restricted area. Drafting treaties always requires international cooperation, and they are always based on the latest information obtained by research.

For Finland, the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area is a very central agreement. Its governing body is the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM.

Acts and decrees are Finland’s way of observing treaties

In practice, all areas of law include acts and decrees related to the sea. EU regulations and treaties are implemented through national legislation. Legislation regulates business operations on the sea and the coast, exploitation of marine resources, planning for coastal and open sea areas, and marine traffic and port operations, for example.

In addition to reducing the pressures caused by human activities on the sea and the coast, Finland’s national legislation aims to protect and preserve natural environments and cultural heritage.

Åland Islands have their own laws – and obligations

Act on the Autonomy of Åland grants the Åland Islands the right to regulate internal matters through legislation, and the right to draft a budget for the municipality independently. Any amendments to the Autonomy Act require a decision from the Parliament of Finland – made in accordance with the separate procedure for constitutional enactment – and an approval from the Parliament of Åland.

The central aspects under the governance of the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea policies are related to environmental issues, municipal self-government, promoting business activities, and protecting cultural heritage and ancient monuments.

The special status of the Åland Islands in the EU requires that Åland reports implementation of EU directives independently and drafts its own maritime spatial plan, for example.

Progress is continuously monitored and improved

The effects of the measures taken to achieve the goals set in the maritime policies are continuously monitored locally and internationally with programmes designed for that specific purpose. The monitoring enables further action to be taken, developing measures already in use and narrowing their focus even more in order to achieve a good environmental status.