Finland’s Water Transport Act aims to improve safety and increases preparedness for the future
The Government of Finland has proposed a new Water Transport Act, which would ensure that all water transport legislation is up to date and found in one place. According to Finland’s Ministry of Transport and Communications, the aim of the reform is to facilitate automation as well as to increase the safety of water transport and responsible boating. The new law would also bring clarity to the roles and tasks of authorities.
The Government proposed the enactment of the new Water Transport Act on 18 October 2018. At the same time, the current Water Transport Act and the Act on Watercraft Registration would be overturned and certain other acts would be amended.
“The Water Transport Act is part of the Government’s deregulation project, which aims to streamline and simplify regulations in order to facilitate the everyday lives of citizens. When the currently scattered water transportation laws and regulations are put in one place as a clear entity, they will be easier to find and learn. The reform of regulation is one method for improving the safety of water transport. The Water Transport Act will also help us prepare for the future and for the wider spread of automation,” states Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner.
The proposal includes new regulation concerning the master of a pleasure craft. This regulation would first and foremost affect recreational boating. It would correspond, in part, with regulations in the Maritime Act concerning commercial transport, but its requirements would be less strict. Regulations concerning the master of the boat are needed to guarantee the safety of persons on board a boat, the easier monitoring of water traffic, and the facilitation of automation.
According to the proposal, the master of a boat would be the driver, user or another person, who in practice steers or is in command of the boat. Boats could also be steered via remote control. The proposal does not include a requirement for the use of flotation devices, such as safety jackets, in all situations. The master of the boat would be responsible for seeing to it that the persons travelling in the boat are wearing flotation devices when conditions, such as the weather or waves, so require.
The proposal includes the suggestion that regulations related to rental boats be eased and the sanctions system be brought up to date. The objective of these changes would be to facilitate the renting of boats and a sharing economy. The proposal includes a suggestion that all inspection and equipment requirements for rental boats be dropped completely. In the future, rental boats would only include rental boats with crew on board, such as taxi boats.
The proposed reform would see the sanctions system be brought up to date, and, in connection with this, a traffic penalty fee system, which has the same broad outlines as the system planned for implementation in road traffic, would be introduced. However, a traffic penalty fee could not be imposed without stopping the boat. A traffic penalty fee could be issued by the Police the Finnish Border Guard or Finnish Customs. The new system would replace the current system of fines for lesser offences. The reform would not include the revision of the drink driving limit.
A preliminary debate will be held on the proposal now submitted by the Government to Parliament. The timetable for the debate will be listed on the Parliament’s website (upcoming plenary sessions).
After the preliminary debate, the proposal will be taken to a Parliamentary Committee. After the Committee submits a report, the process will continue in a plenary session.
The Act is scheduled to enter into force on 1 June 2020.