Gulf of Finland

Planning solutions


Maritime spatial planning in the Gulf of Finland emphasises maritime logistics, tourism and recreation, cultural heritage and the marine environment.

In functional terms, the marine area of the Gulf of Finland is characterised by seafaring. The Gulf of Finland is the most highly trafficked of all Finland’s marine areas and contains Finland’s largest ports. Its location on the border of the EU and Russia is unique in terms of seafaring and port operations, creating an excellent operating environment for international trade and logistics.

The area sees the highest number of tourists of all Finland’s marine areas and also offers great potential for future tourism development. The varied archipelago formed by hard rock polished by the Ice Age and its zone of fracture is a resource for tourism and recreation in the Gulf of Finland.

Thanks to Gulf of Finland’s location, versatile cultural heritage clusters have formed in this area. The characteristic features of the area are a long history of coastal settlement, seafaring and naval battles and of the border areas, which also support maritime tourism opportunities.

The nature of the archipelago and the rugged shoreline offer plenty of valuable small-scale marine biotopes, many of which are important areas in terms of marine biodiversity. Shallow bays, underwater sandbanks and rocky reefs are particularly important habitats. The outer archipelago in the eastern Gulf of Finland is recognised as an important area in terms of marine biodiversity. The potential for migratory fish is also an important characteristic of the area’s natural environment.

The marine environment and nature

The maritime spatial plan indicates areas of significant underwater natural values, which are also potential areas for ecosystem services production. When developing the use of the areas, it is important to consider the preservation of the characteristics of underwater habitats. The plan marking does not consider administrative border or conservation areas, and the indicated areas are not proposals for conservation areas.

The areas shown on the map are identified in the national inventory (Finnish ecologically significant marine underwater areas, EMMA, link) as being important areas in terms of underwater ecology. A total of 35 areas with underwater natural values have been identified in the Gulf of Finland. One of the areas (Luodematalat) is located in the economic zone. The boundaries of the areas are mainly based on the data gathered in the Finnish Inventory Programme for the Underwater Marine Environment (VELMU) on aquatic plants and other biomes, Baltic Sea coastal habitats and spawning areas for fish.

Areas defined as EMMA areas are those for which sufficient mapping data is available. Significant natural values are also located outside these areas. As the amount of data increases in the future, more significant areas will be able to be identified. It is important to survey and pay attention to underwater natural values other than those the areas identified in the plan.

The maritime spatial plan does not indicate existing areas in the Natura 2000 network, national parks or other conservation areas whose protection and implementation is guided by other legislation but they have been taken into account in the planning process.

Off Haapasaari in Finland’s economic zone there is a special geological feature, a canyon-like chasm, 90 metres deep, which was possibly gouged out by glacial meltwater. A geologically significant area is located near Virolahti where the surface soil types mainly comprise sand and cohesive soil, and sand and iron-manganese concretions. The areas are geologically significant but are not included in the EMMA areas.

Maritime spatial planning identifies significant ecological connections, that are particularly important environments and connections for migratory fish and river valleys that are important Blue-Green network transition zones and ecological connections in terms of land-sea interactions. The priority sites in Finland’s National Fish Passage Strategy are rivers that are particularly important for restoring fish migration routes. The Siuntionjoki, Mustionjoki, Kymijoki and Virojoki rivers have been defined as priority sites in the Gulf of Finland area. Other rivers and river valleys designated as ecological connections are Vantaanjoki, Sipoonjoki, Espoonjoki, Mankinjoki, Mustijoki, Porvoonjoki, Ilolanjoki, Koskenkylänjoki, Fiskarsinjoki, Ingarskilanjoki–Torbackanjoki, Summanjoki and Vehkajoki.

The Gulf of Finland is also a marine dimension of the Green Belt of Fennoscandia, linking the Green Belt of Fennoscandia with the European Green Belt. It is important to pay attention to the preservation and improvement of the ecological connections when developing various human operations.

Illustration. Areas of significant underwater natural values in the Gulf of Finland.


In terms of energy production, the maritime spatial plan does not indicate any new potential areas for offshore wind power development. Operations of the Finnish defence forces and the needs of national defence are significant factors impeding the development of large-scale wind power in the Gulf of Finland. The Natura 2000 areas and bird life as well as other impacts on nature also limit the construction of wind power in the area. However, in terms of wind strength, the Gulf of Finland does have potential for wind power construction. The strategic approach of the plan regarding wind power is that the areas best suited for large-scale wind power are located elsewhere. This being the case, the maritime spatial plan does not show the area outside Porvoo designated for wind power production in Phased Regional Land Use Plan 4 for the region of Uusimaa. The area is suitable for wind power production although it is not shown on the maritime spatial plan.

Special areas in the maritime spatial plan in the Gulf of Finland are the Kilpilahti industrial area in Porvoo, the nuclear power station area in Loviisa and Google’s data centre in Hamina. Industrial operations often produce heat in excess of their own needs. In Uusimaa, waste heat from the Kilpilahti oil and petrochemicals refineries and the Loviisa nuclear power station is currently discharged into the sea. Using this “waste heat” for heating would reduce the need to use other sources of energy. Making use of the surplus heat from these plants for district heating production in the Helsinki metropolitan area would significantly reduce greenhouse emissions from the region’s district heating and resolve bioenergy problems relating to capacity and sustainability.

Google’s most advanced data centre is located in Hamina. The data centre was sited in Hamina due to its suitable energy infrastructure, the availability of sea water as a coolant and other existing infrastructure. Its cooling system is the first in the world to use this technology.

Four important international infrastructure connections run through the Gulf of Finland area. The Estlink 1 and 2 undersea cables are electricity transmission connections between Finland and Estonia, the first running from Porkkalanniemi in Kirkkonummi and the second from Anttila in Porvoo. The Balticconnector underwater gas pipeline runs from Ingå to Estonia while Nord Stream runs from Russia through the Gulf of Finland to Germany.

Maritime logistics

Maritime spatial planning identifies the internationally significant ports in the TEN-T Core Network and Comprehensive Network, as well as other regionally important ports. Seafaring areas, further connections on the mainland, smooth transport flow and safety are central to the conditions determining the functioning and development of ports. The port markings also cover other operations which depend on port areas such as industry and logistics centres.

Nationally and internationally significant ports and goods traffic hubs in the Gulf of Finland are the Ports of Helsinki and the Port of HaminaKotka which are also part of the European TEN-T Core Network. Ports in the TEN-T Comprehensive Network are the ports of Hanko and Sköldvik in Porvoo.

Fast ferry connections from the Port of Helsinki’s West Harbour, South Harbour and Katajanokka terminals offer high frequency transport to Tallinn and Stockholm. Vuosaari Harbour serves container traffic to many of the most important ports in Europe. The ports in the centre of Hanko are the southernmost in Finland, providing rapid connections to Central Europe. The port of Sköldvik serves the industrial plants in the area and specialises in transporting liquids. The Port of HaminaKotka is the largest universal and transit traffic port in Finland and also specialises in handling demanding project shipments. HaminaKotka is an important route for through traffic on the border between the EU and Russia.

Other significant ports in the Gulf of Finland are the ports of Ingå, Kantvik in Kirkkonummi and Loviisa.

Besides port operations, ports are also important areas for maritime industry and port-related industry may be sited in these areas. In the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki Shipyard also operates in the same area as Helsinki West Harbour.

The seafaring areas indicated in the maritime spatial plan are mainly Class 1 merchant shipping fairways and other busy marine areas. The seafaring areas have been identified based on the areas used by maritime transport, locations of existing fairways and the needs to indicate new fairways with a general “Seafaring areas” marking. It is important to pay attention to the future needs of seafaring and maritime logistics as well as the prerequisites for safe seafaring when developing the seafaring areas.

The Gulf of Finland archipelago and the topography of the seabed steer shipping to the ports in quite restricted fairways. There is also a deep fairway linking ports running parallel with the coast of the Gulf of Finland with a depth of 9 metres, apart from between Ekenäs and Ingå (5 metres). Outside local waters seafaring is unrestricted, in other words traffic is free outside separately agreed traffic separation schemes. In Finland’s economic zone in the Gulf of Finland, there are three traffic separation schemes that steer traffic running east-west, the central one of which includes a danger area for crossing traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn. The majority of marine traffic is directed to fairways in the centre of the Gulf of Finland in accordance with the traffic separation system. The maritime spatial plan also shows the need for a new fairway towards St Petersburg, which is necessary in order to create a more functional connection and due to increased vessel sizes.

The maritime spatial plan identifies economically and functionally significant existing and potential functional connections which support the livelihoods and other wellbeing in the areas. Functional connections may refer to tourism and recreation as well as infrastructure connection needs. The coordination needs of different sectors must be considered when developing the connections. Connections must be developed in a diversified manner.

The functional connection between Helsinki and Tallinn is part of the TEN-T North Sea–Baltic Corridor. This connection encompasses both the existing shipping connection and the possibility of a potential tunnel link. The connection to Tallinn is particularly important for Uusimaa due to frequent commuting, goods transport, business operations and tourism. The potential tunnel, combined with developing the Rail Baltica railway corridor, would increase the significance of the connection even further.

The connection between the Port of HaminaKotka and Kouvola is part of the Scandinavian–Mediterranean Corridor, part of the TEN-T Core Network. The connection is significant from the point of view of land-sea interaction and combines marine transport with transport chains on land. The Port of HaminaKotka and the Kouvola rail and road terminal (RRT) together form a functional logistics entity that, besides Finland, also serves Russian and Asian traffic.

From the ports of Western Uusimaa, especially Hanko, a functional connection is shown from Western Uusimaa to Germany and elsewhere in Central Europe. The connection is regular and important for Southern Finland.

The functional connections between Kotka and Estonia and between Kotka and St Petersburg have development potential associated with traffic development needs. The connections are associated with important international potential, e.g. in terms of passenger transport, the realisation of which would require new traffic solutions and, e.g. streamlining cross-border processes. The Estonian maritime spatial plan contains equivalent development policy approaches regarding developing tourism connections towards Kotka. The Kotka–St Petersburg connection also involves connecting transport chains to traffic on Russia’s inland waterways. Transport routes run via the Port of HaminaKotka through Russia’s inland waterways to as far as Kazakhstan.

In maritime spatial planning, in order to foster the good status of the marine environment, the future needs for dredging of ports and Class 1 merchant shipping fairway areas have been surveyed and most suitable banking sites for dredging masses identified in terms of protecting the marine environment and cost effectiveness (link).

The Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) is a Europe-wide transport network comprising a core network to be built by 2030 and a comprehensive network to be completed by 2050. The aim is to create a safe and sustainable EU transport system which facilitates the smooth movement of people and goods.

Fishing and aquaculture

Regarding professional fishing, the maritime spatial plan shows important areas for coastal net fishing and open sea trawling. Net fishing areas illustrated with a fishing marking are based on the Natural Resources Institute Finland’s net fishing data which covers class 1 net fishing areas Fishing areas have been generalised to suit the maritime spatial planning scale. It should be borne in mind that the location of catch sites and the times when they are used vary with fish movements and other conditions.

Other important areas for professional fishing such as fyke net sites or the network of fishing harbours are not shown on the map due to the maritime spatial planning scale, but they have been taken into account in the planning process.

The maritime spatial plan shows areas with fish farming potential as strategic long-term targets. The marking also shows fish farms currently in operation. However, the Gulf of Finland is ecologically classified as having a status worse than good and the area is the object of pressure to reduce the nutrient load so as to bring the water to the required good status. This theme is associated with conflicting pressures: on the one hand, according to the Finnish aquaculture site selection plan, due to the status of the water, the load should not be increased by aquaculture but on the other hand, the aim of the Finnish Aquaculture Strategy 2022 is to increase fish farming in Finland.

The FINFARMGIS modelling produced by the Natural Resources Institute Finland and existing and planned fish farming infrastructure were used to identify potential aquaculture areas. In identifying fish farming areas, use was made of the FINFARMGIS method, produced by the Natural Resources Institute Finland’s Aquaculture Innovation Programme and based on an ecosystem approach. The aim of FINFARMGIS analysis is to evaluate the appropriateness of the areas for the purpose of fish farming applying environmental, social and economic criteria. Spatial data is used to create a synthesis map, through multi-criteria decision analysis and cost surface analysis, which describes in a modelling-based classification the best areas for large-scale fish farms in Finland’s marine areas.

Modelling has found areas with potential for further rearing of fish in the Gulf of Finland, on the basis of which an expert evaluation was carried out to determine the markings. The aim in the future is for areas with potential for further rearing to be sited in the most advantageous areas in terms of water turnover causing a lower nutrient load. The assumption in the planned solution is that technological developments will cause the load effect from fish farms to be fundamentally reduced in the future. A more detailed evaluation of the impacts of the areas will be carried out in conjunction with the fish farm permit processes.

Tourism and recreation

The maritime spatial plan shows zones for developing tourism and recreation depending on marine strengths in the Gulf of Finland. The archipelago and the maritime location, a clean environment and the proximity of the natural world and the built environment are recognised as strengths of tourism in the Gulf of Finland. Tourism and recreation destinations based around the resource of maritime history or the aquatic environment and potential for such can be found throughout the planning area.

The small craft track that runs through the entire Gulf of Finland and is a central recreation and tourism route for accessibility and services is shown as a tourism and recreational connection. The small craft track links the metropolitan area of St Petersburg via the Gulf of Finland to Finnish waters.

The most significant hub for international tourism is the surroundings of Helsinki with its marine areas. The coastal cities and towns of Hanko, Raseborg, Porvoo, Loviisa, Kotka and Hamina, and their archipelago are also key tourist sites. Coastal cities and towns are the gateways to tourist and recreational destinations in the archipelago and marine national parks. When developing tourism and recreation areas, there is an emphasis on access to the areas and networked services. The aim is to create a functional network of coastal tourism areas in the Gulf of Finland and a functioning network of harbours to serve tourists, holiday home visitors and permanent residents.

There is great potential for fishing and nature tourism in the Gulf of Finland. Kymijoki is an important river for fish. There has been a change in recreational fishing and fishing tourism from fishing for need to fishing for recreation, which creates new opportunities for the tourism sector. For their part, recreational fishing and hunting opportunities as recreational use support a vibrant and flourishing archipelago culture.

Included table describes tourism and recreation development zones presented in the maritime spatial plan in the Gulf of Finland

Pyhtää coast and archipelagoThe key areas within this zone include the Strömfors Ironworks area, Ahvenkoski, Keihässalmi strait, the Pyhtää church village and Stockfors groundwood mill area, the Struka lock and Purolahti nature attractions, the Munapirtti tourism and recreation areas, and Kaunissaari island.
Kotka coast and archipelagoThe key areas within this zone include the Kantasatama harbour, Varissaari island, the islands of Rankki and Kirkonmaa, Haapasaari island, and the Sapokka, Katariina and Lehmäsaari recreational areas.
Hamina coast and archipelagoThe key areas within this zone include Tervasaari outdoor area in Hamina, the Nuokot recreational area, the Vimpasaari and Rakinkotka tourist services, Tammio island, and Ulko-Tammio island in the Eastern Gulf of Finland National Park.
RaseborgRaseborg and the Ekenäs Archipelago National Park. Potential for nature and water tourism, recreation, and city and cultural tourism.
Porvoo and the Pellinki archipelagoPorvoo and the Pellinki archipelago. The national urban park of Porvoo. Potential for nature and water tourism, recreation, and city and cultural tourism.
LoviisaLoviisa, the Loviisa archipelago, Pernajanlahti bay and the Koskenkylänjoki river valley. Potential for nature and water tourism, recreation, and city and cultural tourism.
Greater HelsinkiThe green and blue ring around Greater Helsinki. Potential for nature and water tourism, recreation, and city and cultural tourism.
HankoThe national urban park of Hanko. Potential for nature and water tourism, recreation, and city and cultural tourism.

Cultural heritage

Maritime spatial planning identifies cultural heritage clusters that include, for example, nationally valuable landscape areas, nationally significant built cultural environments (RKY), underwater cultural landscapes, coastal fishing tradition areas and entities related to seafaring, traditional biotopes and villa culture.

The maritime spatial plan indicates 12 entities of cultural heritage value, representing different types of cultural heritage features characteristic of the planning area of the Gulf of Finland. These areas are described in a table.

Archipelago villages, industries and seafaring are characteristic of the eastern coast and archipelago of the Gulf of Finland. Hanko, Loviisa and Helsinki have a health spa and villa culture dating back to the end of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.

Maritime spatial planning identifies significant functional archipelago entities in marine areas, which combine the local archipelago culture, year-round residence and holiday homes, several maritime sectors, biodiversity and cultural environment. These core areas of the archipelago in the Gulf of Finland are the archipelago entities of Bromarv, Raseborg–Ingå, Sipoo–Porvoo and Loviisa–Pyhtää–Kotka. The vital archipelago culture, diverse business life and year-round accessibility of the areas should be considered when developing the areas. It is important to develop the infrastructure in the areas to support their vitality and characteristics.


Table describes areas of cultural significance presented in the maritime spatial plan in the Gulf of Finland

KaunissaariA well-preserved example of a fishing and seafaring village in the eastern Gulf of Finland. A densely built village characterised by fenced-in plots and gardens, alleyways between plots, and numerous piers, boathouses and wooden barns along the beach. The oldest buildings date back to the 19th century. The earliest written evidence of settlements in the area is from the 1560s.
HaapasaariA well-preserved example of a fishing and seafaring village in the eastern Gulf of Finland. A consistently-scaled, densely-built pilot village environment with an abundance of old buildings. The oldest houses are from the 18th century, and most are from the period between the 1850s and 1920s. Piloting activities began on the island in the 17th century, and customs activities began in the 18th century. A grey stone beacon tower was built as a landmark in 1862.
TammioA well-preserved example of a fishing and seafaring village in the eastern Gulf of Finland. The village consists of a total of 40 residential buildings constructed densely so they support each other along the village lane. The oldest buildings are from the early 19th century, and the majority were built before the 1870s. The maritime appearance is accentuated by the glacially-scoured sheepback rocks in alleyways and around the houses. Tammio was first settled in the Middle Ages.
The Ruotsinsalmi naval battle siteIn 1778 and 1790, naval battles between Sweden and Russia took place in Ruotsinsalmi strait off the coast of Kotka. At the time, the battle was the largest naval engagement to take place in the Baltic Sea – approximately 60 battleships were sunk in a small area. The site is an internationally unique treasure trove of shipwrecks. The area also has underwater scenic value.
HankoThe tip of the Hanko peninsula is a valuable landscape, diverse and layered. It has developed into its current form since the establishment of the Hanko winter harbour (1873). The entity includes the town’s harbours, the railway station, the town centre including the wooden houses, the casino and adjoining parks and other areas related to the spa and villa culture, the Hauensuoli rock carvings and military history sites from the 19th century onwards.
SkärlandetFinland’s first national landscape area protected under the Nature Conservation Act. There is a large number of areas shaped by cattle, and cattle grazing is visible in the vegetation. The area is sparsely populated, and most of the valuable buildings are old.
JussaröA former mining and military island. The island is mentioned as a harbour in mediaeval records of shipping lanes. Piloting activities and ore mining began on the island in the 19th century. Mining continued until the 1960s.
PorkkalaniemiThe archipelago at the tip of the Porkkala peninsula at the narrowest point in the Gulf of Finland has always been significant in terms of travelling and military activity. From the 1630s onwards, the postal road to Tallinn passed through the area. From the same period, more than 10 villages were identified along the road, many of which were pilot villages. The area contains the Rönnskär lighthouse, which was built in the early 19th century, the old shelter and fishing harbour of Mäkiluoto, several ancient underwater relics, and the Kallbådan lighthouse.
Greater HelsinkiSuomenlinna, along the fairway into Helsinki, is one of the world’s largest sea fortresses, and it has played a role in defending the three countries that contributed to its constructions: Sweden, Russia and Finland. The unique monument to military architecture is one of Finland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Krepost Sveaborg – an Imperial Russian system of land and coastal fortifications constructed around Helsinki – is one of the most significant fortifications built during World War I. Steamship traffic gave rise to villa settlements along the public steamship routes operating in Helsinki at the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century.
PorvooThe oldest city in Uusimaa and second-oldest in Finland was established in 1346 at the far reaches of the Porvoonlahti bay. The old town of Porvoo has a well-preserved mediaeval town plan, street network and plot structure. The area is characterised by houses built densely along narrow streets, with courtyards and buildings mainly dating back to the 18th century. The old town of Porvoo, with its river landscapes and castle hill, is a part of the Finnish national landscape.
The western archipelago of PorvooThe piloting, lighthouse and fishing settlements in the western archipelago of Porvoo, consisting of the Söderskär lighthouse, Pirttisaari island and its neighbouring islands, Långholmen, Andersholmen, Rågskär and the central part of the island Onas, are illustrative of the history of housing and livelihoods since the 17th century. The area also contained royal navy berths in the late 18th century
Pellinki archipelagoThe piloting, lighthouse and fishing settlements in the Pellinki archipelago have played a significant role in the history of seafaring in the Gulf of Finland. Tullsundet, in the sheltered inner waterways of the Pellinginsalmi strait, has been in use for centuries. The sheltered harbour in the deep basins of the strait is also marked on the royal naval charts from the late 18th century, and the coastal rocks are engraved with names, years and water levels. Pellinki has contained numerous distinctive archipelago villages.
LoviisaThe Svartholma sea fortress and Loviisa land fortress are a part of the eastern bulwarks of the main Suomenlinna fortress, built after Sweden’s territorial concessions in the 1740s. The Orrengrund beacon tower and pilot station, built in 1858 in the southeast of Loviisa, are located at a significant confluence of shipping lanes. The Valko harbour, in the south of Loviisa, was established at the turn of the 20th century in the area inhabited by pilots and fishermen.

Maritime industry

In maritime spatial planning, maritime industry is identified as a central part of entities comprising maritime livelihoods, maritime clusters. Maritime industry operations are often centralised in the vicinity of large ports. In maritime spatial planning for the Gulf of Finland, maritime industry is included under the port markings. Helsinki Shipyard also operates in the same area as Helsinki West Harbour.

Functional logistics connections on land and at sea are important in terms of the competitiveness of maritime industry. When developing ports, it is important to prepare for increasing maritime logistics and the realisation of a variety of projects sited at sea.


In this planning round, no mineral potential is indicated in the maritime spatial plan. The underlying data for identifying potential areas is not yet sufficient and the small size of mining sites poses challenges when indicating potential in the maritime spatial plan. In vision work, the mining industry is identified as a sector of the future, and it has also been examined in the report on the current state of the Blue Economy (link). Seabed sand resources, such as sand and gravel formations, are typically the same areas that have very high natural values

Blue biotechnology

In this planning round, no blue biotechnology potential is indicated in the maritime spatial plan given the lack of more detailed research and reports. In vision work, blue biotechnology is identified as an important sector of the future, and it has also been examined in the report on the current state of the Blue Economy (link). Indirectly, the sector is included in the aim of good status of the marine environment because a sea whose status is good is capable of also producing high quality raw materials for biotechnology needs.

National defence

Safeguarding the operations of Finland’s defence forces has been taken into account in the maritime spatial planning process. In the maritime spatial plan, defence force areas are shown in the background material.

In maritime spatial planning, attention has been paid to restricted marine areas in line with the Territorial Surveillance Act and to firing and military training areas. The Gulf of Finland planning area includes six firing and military training areas and nine restricted areas.

Of the uses of marine areas set to grow in the future, offshore wind power construction will require harmonisation with the needs of national defence. This was taken into account in the first planning round where the emphasis on the potential of offshore wind power was placed in the Gulf of Bothnia