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New rules to bring fines for boating offences

Minor offences will attract fines of up to 120 euros while major misdeeds will be dealt with according to criminal law.

Veneitä Kaivopuiston edustalla.
Older men accounted for all of Finland's boating fatalities last year. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

New traffic regulations to take effect from 1 June will see the introduction of fines for boating violations and will also call for a captain to be appointed on pleasure craft.

According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, there will be different levels of penalties corresponding with varying degrees of violations on the water.

"At the lowest level there will be a misdemeanour fine that will range from 40 to 120 euros depending on the gravity of the offence. More serious cases will be dealt with as maritime traffic offences, while the most egregious [mis]deeds will be subject to criminal law," ministerial counsellor Irja Vesanen-Nikitin said.

Finland records more minor and serious boating offences and accidents that its wealthier neighbour Sweden.

"Last year, 43 people died in seafaring accidents in Finland. This would have been a very high number in Sweden," said Suvi Toppari, a team leader with the Transport and Communications Agency, Traficom.

All of the boating fatalities in Finland last year were men. "In addition to gender, age was well-represented. The majority of victims were between 55 and 74 years old," Toppari noted.

Driverless boats and the sharing economy

Another reform introduced by the new legislation calls for a captain to be named for each maritime outing. The skipper will be responsible for safety measures such as ensuring that there are life vests on board for each passenger, and that they are readily available when weather and other conditions require.

The boat's captain may be the driver, but it can also be someone else. Moreover, the captain will not even necessarily need to be on board the vessel, Vesanen-Nikitin noted.

"This is partly to anticipate [possible] driverless boats in the future," she explained.

The summer reform will also eliminate the need for rental boats to pass an annual inspection. "At the same time the requirement for rental boats to have the CE certification stamp will also be lifted. By easing the rules relating to rental boats we want to promote a small-scale sharing economy," Toppari added.

Europe's leading boating nation?

According to the ministry's Vesanen-Nikitin, Finland likely has the highest number of boats in Europe in relation to its population. She added that many Finns seem to think ownership rather than renting or sharing is the best option for enjoying life on the water.

"According to a 2016 report, Finland had about one million pleasure boats. There were roughly 220,000 registered vessels at the end of last year," Toppari noted.

Finland is not planning to introduce a driver's permit for boat operators in the same way that motorists need a permit to operate a car.

"The majority of boating accidents occur in near-shore waters, while rowing or when standing in a boat to drop fishing nets. It is difficult to influence those risks by regulating life vest use or intoxication at the helm," Vesanen-Nikitin pointed out.

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