The Finnish government is proposing nearly 25 million euros in support for shipping traffic, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Passenger ferries linking Finland to Sweden and Estonia, for instance, suffered a collapse in demand this spring due to travel restrictions.
The proposal would allow subsidies to both cargo and passenger shipping lines if it is judged to be essential due to circumstances, the Ministry of Transport and Communications said on Friday.
Maritime deliveries are crucial to the Finnish economy, Transport Minister Timo Harakka noted in a statement. Besides the northern part of Sweden, the country has no land borders with its main EU trading partners.
"The primary goal is for traffic to operate on market-based terms and to begin to recover as coronavirus restrictions are removed incrementally. However this appropriation will enable support for shipping traffic if it proves to be essential," Harakka said.
Specific conditions to be set later
To be eligible for the funding, shipping firms would have to commit to public service obligations regarding their routes, vessels or frequency of sailings. The government will later specify these conditions, which could potentially include measures to lower emissions or ensure security of supply.
The Finnish Transport and Communications Agency (Traficom) will be put in charge of distributing the funds and ensuring compliance with the stipulations.
The ministry says that the funding will meet all of the EU's state aid rules.
The shipping subsidy proposal, approved by the cabinet on Thursday, is a late addition to its fourth supplementary budget plan, announced last week.
The broader proposal, worth some five billion euros, was presented to Parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday. It met with a critical response from the main opposition parties, who charged the centre-left coalition with reckless spending.