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Maritime logistics

The Maritime transport area notation has been used in maritime spatial planning as a general indication of areas used for shipping. They are based on areas used for maritime transport, the locations of existing fairways and the need to designate new fairways, for which the general notation Maritime transport areas has been used. When developing the maritime transport areas, it is important to address the future needs of shipping and marine logistics as well as the prerequisites for safe maritime transport.

The Maritime Spatial Plan identifies existing and potential functional connections which are of economical and operational importance and which support livelihoods and other welfare in the relevant areas. The functional connections are both international and national. A functional connection may comprise connection needs related to tourism, recreation and infrastructure. The Maritime Spatial Plan also identifies ports of international significance in the TEN-T core network and comprehensive network as well as other regionally significant ports.

Vision developed for maritime transport: Maritime logistics will be globally competitive, safe and sustainable.

The plan identifies ports of international significance (TEN-T), other commercial shipping ports, and smaller regional ports. The ports entered in the plan are currently in operation, and no new ports, expansion of existing ports or decommissioning of old ports are proposed in the plan. In this respect, plan implementation would not change the current situation. 

As part of the EU’s TEN-T core network corridors, the connections between Turku and Stockholm as well as Helsinki and Tallinn have been identified as functional connections. Other designated functional connections include those between Western Uusimaa and Central Europe, Kotka and St Petersburg, and Kotka and Estonia. 

In addition, a preliminary study on sustainable alternatives for the disposal of dredging spoils has been prepared within the framework of the maritime spatial planning project. For reasons of scale, no notations related to the preliminary study have been made on the planning maps, but the report will be published as part of the Maritime Spatial Plan.

Impacts

While the planning notations are largely based on maritime transport as it is today, the plan has identified economically and functionally significant connections that support the livelihoods and other welfare of the areas. No dredging needs are known to be associated with the potential new fairway to St. Petersburg. In general, it can be said that the plan largely describes the current state, and the foreseeable environmental impacts of the plan will not differ from the current state if traffic volumes remain unchanged. On the other hand, all scenarios describing the future of maritime transport also predict an increase in traffic volumes in the Baltic Sea. An IMO decision on reducing nitrogen emissions from ships in NECA areas will enter into force on 1 January 2021, reducing emissions from maritime transport. The draft Maritime Spatial Plan does not contain quantitative targets for increasing or reducing the volume of maritime traffic, which makes it impossible to assess the direction and significance of these impacts on the basis of the planning documents.

The plan does not evaluate medium-term needs to deepen existing fairways or establish new ones, or the adequacy of port capacity with a view to this trend. If the fairway network remains as it is presented in the plan, this could cause congestion in existing fairways and ports which may, for example, increase the risks of shipping accidents and thus negative impacts on the marine environment. The negative environmental impacts of increased maritime transport include oil and chemical accidents, atmospheric deposition, emissions of harmful substances and wastewater, and invasive alien species. Oil spills and other chemical accidents have a direct impact on biodiversity in the Baltic Sea. Another significant threat to ecosystems are invasive alien species carried with ships. Wastewater emissions from vessels and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen contribute to the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.[1] The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has declared the Baltic Sea a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (with the exception of the Russian territorial waters). This makes it possible to impose special requirements on ships operating in the Baltic Sea to protect the sensitive environment.[2]

The identification of underwater ecological values and the objectives of protecting and preserving them may in places be inconsistent with maritime transport and fairway management. Especially in shallower sea areas, dredging disperses the seabed sediment and makes the water cloudy over large areas, also in the vicinity of the fairways, impairing the status of aquatic plant and benthic communities of the seabed. 

It is likely that the dredging of new fairways or deepening of the existing ones will also be necessary in the future. The more precise location of the fairways, the dredging methods used, and the choice of disposal sites for the spoils will determine their impacts on the marine environment, water quality and underwater cultural heritage.[3]  A preliminary study on sustainable options for the disposal of dredging spoils in the sea conducted in connection with the maritime spatial planning process aims to reduce the environmental impacts of disposal, in particular, by identifying areas where the impacts of disposal could be smaller. The study relied on an exclusion method, and the examination included benthic fauna, aquatic vegetation, fishes and birds. The remaining areas were identified as potentially suitable for disposal. The preliminary study also mapped out current and future dredging needs related to fairways and ports included in the TEN-T network as well as the current disposal sites.

Particular benefits for the good status of the marine environment can be achieved if existing disposal sites in less suitable locations are moved to the identified sites that are potentially less sensitive. While the identified areas are extensive and a more detailed local investigation will be required to find the most suitable disposal sites within them, the study provides additional tools to support land use planning.

Securing effective maritime transport connections as part of maritime spatial planning supports the Finnish economy, well-being and security of supply over the long term. The competitiveness of Finnish businesses and the functioning of society rely on effective maritime transport connections, also during the winter navigation season, and will continue to do so. Smooth port logistics and effective hinterland traffic contribute to making this possible. By identifying key maritime transport areas, the plan will help to secure effective shipping connections over the long term.

The volume of maritime transport is estimated to grow significantly in the Baltic Sea in the future, with a particular focus on the Gulf of Finland.[4]  A well-functioning and safe fairway network will support this growth. From the perspective of the Finnish maritime industry and shipyards, the growth in maritime transport will be seen as increasing demand and more orders if the marine industry remains sufficiently competitive compared to other countries or is able to produce expertise not found elsewhere (including zero emission ships). 

The goal of increasing the output of offshore wind power plants will also increase the utilisation rate of ports and the land and maritime traffic passing through them, especially during the construction phase of offshore wind farms. Other increasing use of marine areas will also raise the utilisation rate of ports – for example, better utilisation of the potential for tourism will increase the volume of traffic passing through passenger ports, with indirect positive impacts on the regional economy.

The Maritime Spatial Plan contributes to highlighting the importance of functional connections by drawing attention to them. The vitality and competitiveness of Finnish business life and the functioning of society as a whole (security of supply[5]) rely largely on well-functioning maritime transport and hinterland connections. Other uses of the marine areas should thus be planned without jeopardising safe and well-functioning connections.

Kuva.3 Merilogistiikan vaikuttavuuspolku

Sources

[1] Itämeri. Ympäristö ja ekologia. Editors: Furman et al. Available at: www.syke.fi 

 
[3] The environmental impacts were discussed in greater detail in a preliminary study by FCG in 2020: Ruoppausmassojen kestävät läjitysvaihtoehdot (Sustainable options for the disposal of dredging masses). Preliminary study.