On January 1 2015 the Fairway Dues Act was amended, with some of the amendments having only a temporary, technical or clarifying nature. Certain regulations were open to interpretation and as a result led to disputes between shipping companies and Customs. The amendments are temporary, in the respect that the unit price and maximum amount of fairway dues have been halved for the period from 2015 to 2017 to compensate for additional costs incurred as a result of the EU Sulphur Directive. The reduction in unit price is largest for cargo ships with the highest ice class.

The act's scope of application has been amended to release icebreakers that provide services to the Finnish Transport Agency in Finnish territorial waters from the obligation to pay fairway dues. Traffic in Saimaa and the Saimaa Channel has been excluded from the act; ships will now be charged only when they travel from a coastal port to a Saimaa port or vice versa.

For international traffic, fairway dues are now payable when a ship arrives in Finnish waters (previously, dues were payable when a ship called at a Finnish port). Shipowners' representatives have also been defined more carefully. Representatives with joint and several liability with shipowners must have a good reputation and strong financial standing, and be approved by Customs.

For ships in international traffic, which take onboard cargo or passengers at one Finnish port to disembark at another Finnish port, dues will now be charged at each Finnish port, as for domestic traffic.

For ships that call at Finnish ports without taking or leaving cargo or passengers, dues will not be payable for:

  • ship repairs;
  • assessment for the need for repairs;
  • bunkering; or
  • other compelling reasons.

Fairway dues will now be charged when a ship arrives in Finland solely for the purpose of receiving orders pertaining to the continuation of its voyage.

The act includes a new section on the effect of the lack of ice-class certificates or outdated ice-class certificates. If shipowners fail to ensure that certificates are in force and updated, fairway dues will be charged in accordance with the lowest ice class.

The amount of fairway dues will be reduced if a ship is not fully loaded according to the particular loading capacity utilisation rate, which is calculated by comparing the figure showing the combined total of cargo imported to and exported from Finland. There has been some dispute over the question of whether transit cargo (ie, cargo on a ship from outside Finland which is not unloaded in Finland) should be ignored or taken into consideration only once when calculating the loading capacity utilisation rate. This lack of clarity is eliminated by stipulating that transit cargo is added to both imported and exported cargo.

Customs has also been given new powers and now has the right to prevent a ship from leaving Finland if a notification for the purpose of charging fairway dues has been neglected or a shipowner domiciled outside of the European Union or European Economic Area has no customs-approved representative.

The outdated Tonnage Dues Act has been overruled and tonnage dues are no longer charged.

For further information on this topic please contact Matti Komonen at Hammarström Puhakka Partners, Attorneys Ltd by telephone (+358 9 474 2207) or email (matti.komonen@hpplaw.fi). The Hammarström Puhakka Partners, Attorneys Ltd website can be accessed at www.hpplaw.fi.

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