The Ministry of Transport and Communications of Finland published its new, updated Water Traffic Act, which will unite the traffic rules and signs used in water transport. The aim is to enhance the maritime safety, boost responsible boating and also provide a favourable environment for water transport automation.
The new Water Traffic Act will enter into force on 1 June 2020.
Concerning the updated Act, the reform clarifies the roles and responsibilities of the authorities in water transport and the relation between the Water Traffic Act and the Maritime Act.
Primarily, the water traffic rules apply to both merchant shipping and pleasure boating, but the Maritime Act mainly lays down provisions on merchant shipping.
In the reform, special consideration has been paid to the provisions required by canal traffic, including the traffic on the Saimaa Canal.
In addition, the Act includes the revision concerning the provisions on boatmasters of recreational craft. In part, it corresponds with the provisions in the Maritime Act on professional transport but the requirements are lighter. In future, recreational watercraft must have a boatmaster who is responsible for the transport of the vessel and the safety of its passengers. The boatmaster is the person who in fact steers or controls the craft. So the boatmaster does not have to be the person transporting the craft.
In the possibility of an accident and in the case that it is not clear who the master is, the responsibilities of the master lie with the owner or registered holder of the watercraft, if they have, in fact, been able to influence the steering of the vessel.
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Additionally, the boatmaster is responsible of reassuring that the passengers wear flotation devices when conditions require so.
Moreover, the existent technical and inspection requirements in rental boats will be waived. The rental boats with no crew will be applied as recreational craft and the boatmaster will be responsible for them. In the future, rental boats with crew onboard will be applied as professional rental boating.
In light of the updated Act, a traffic violation fee system will be introduced along the same lines as the system referred to in the new Road Traffic Act.
A traffic violation fee can be issued by the Police, Border Guard or Customs. The system will replace the current fixed fine system for lesser violations, but the level of payments will remain at the present level.
The Government submitted the Water Traffic Act and certain related acts for approval and the President of the Republic approved the bill on 19 June 2019.