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Maritime Traffic At Growing Risk

Maritime traffic experts are demanding that the state provides more funding for the monitoring and management of the growing ship traffic in the Gulf of Finland. According to the Finnish Maritime Administration, dozens of Finland's coastal radar and radio facilities are in need of immediate replacement. The coming summer will again be a record one in terms of passenger traffic in the Gulf of Finland. During the summer cruise season, about 2.5 million people make the crossing between Helsinki and Stockholm, and 6 million between Helsinki and Tallinn. There are over 40 departures of passenger vessels from Helsinki to Tallinn daily. During the summer months there are around 400 ships in the Gulf of Finland during any given 24-hour period, most of them freighters. The huge rise in traffic is far beyond what experts had forecast. At the beginning of the decade, it was estimated that by 2010, 75 million tonnes of oil would be transported through these sea lanes annually. Last year more than 150 million tonnes were shipped through the Gulf of Finland and the latest estimate for 2010 is 250 million tonnes. Near misses common

Heavier traffic means that potential dangerous situations are not uncommon. The Vessel Traffic Service Centre for the Gulf of Finland, located in Helsinki, has to direct ships out of the immediate path of other vessels on a daily basis.

Experts say that most of the network of 80 radar stations, maritime radio, cameras and communications facilities are for the most part outdated and in poor working condition.

To date there has not been a major disaster at sea. The Finnish Maritime Administration's deputy director, Kari Kosonen, says that something has to be done soon to keep it that way.

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