In a recent case, the Supreme Administrative Court considered whether empty containers owned by those other than shipowners or charterers should be regarded as cargo in the meaning of Section 11 of the Fairway Dues Act, because 'cargo' is not defined in the act. In addition, the court considered the effect of the customs instructions in this matter.
The Transport Code is one of the government's chief initiatives. Its main purpose is to create a growth environment for business digitalisation and to promote transport business by deregulation. The code will reform the regulation of all transport modes, so that the regulation itself will not become an obstacle to digitalisation, automation and new innovations. Due to the code's broad scope, its preparation has been divided into three phases. The first phase focuses mainly on road transport.
According to the Fairway Dues Act, 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 combined total of cargo imported into and exported out of Finland. The Supreme Administrative Court recently ruled that a ship with no cargo onboard is entitled to the loading capacity reduction.
Following pressure from the European Commission to implement EU cabotage rules fully, Parliament is dealing with a bill amending the Act on Commercial Transport of Goods on the Road. There was some parliamentary opposition to the bill, but in the second reading the controversial bill was approved. However, the commission has decided to refer Finland to the European Court of Justice for failing to apply the cabotage rules properly.
Finland implemented early the cabotage regulations set out in the EU legislative package on road transport. However, the Finnish cabotage restrictions were stricter than those of the regulation, and the European Commission asked Finland to amend its legislation to comply with EU law. The Finnish government has now proposed a bill amending the Act on Commercial Transport of Goods on the Road.
Traffic to the Russian ports on the Baltic Sea has increased greatly over the last few years; as a result, Russia's icebreaking capacity can no longer meet demand in severe winter conditions. In 2011 Russia proposed a treaty with Finland to promote cooperation in icebreaking assistance in the Baltic Sea, which finally came into force this year. Finnish icebreakers may now operate in Russian territorial waters and vice versa.
For several years the Transport Workers' Union (AKT) has claimed that the lashing and unlashing of bars on container ships in Finnish ports should be performed by its own stevedores. Most recently, AKT started directly boycotting selected shipping companies, insisting that they contract out their lashing work to port operators. The case came before the Labour Court, which found that AKT had violated the industrial peace.
The Fairway Dues Act has recently been amended. The act's scope of application has been updated to release icebreakers that provide services to the Finnish Transport Agency in Finnish territorial waters from the obligation to pay fairway dues. The act also includes a new section about the effect of the lack of ice-class certificates or outdated ice-class certificates.
In a recent case, a shipper stowed, loaded and sealed a container, but when it was opened at the final destination, it was observed that one-third of the declared goods had disappeared. Closed-circuit television footage was unable to show whether the container had been sealed at the loading port's gate. The appeal court found that the pilferage had taken place during the carrier's liability period.
In a recent case, two trawlers were moving against the recommended general direction and had not reported to the traffic centre. An approaching merchant vessel changed its course to avoid a collision but hit one of the trawlers. The prosecutor brought charges against the trawler masters. The Helsinki Maritime Court found that the trawlers had no duty to report to the traffic centre. The request to report was a recommendation only.
A recent case before the Supreme Administrative Court concerned whether a port had to pay value added tax on the supply of services and water when they were not charged directly from the shipping company. As the services and water were not used by the agent and the vessels were in commercial international traffic, the court found that extending the sales exemption did not conflict with the correct application of the law.
The Helsinki Appeal Court recently rendered a judgment regarding when a seafarer's employment contract can be made for a fixed term. Pursuant to the Seafarers' Employment Contracts Act, an employment contract is valid indefinitely unless it has been made for a specific fixed term for a justified reason. Contracts made for a fixed term on the employer's initiative without a justified reason will be considered valid indefinitely.
A gas producer and carrier entered into two standard form contracts of carriage for gas products. The gas supplier terminated the contracts due to several alleged contractual breaches. The courts found that the gas producer's allegations were unjustified and held that most of the alleged breaches were caused by the fact that the gas producer had not provided the drivers with the necessary training.
A vessel was suspected of leaking oil and the Border Guard imposed an oil discharge fee on the vessel owner. The owner appealed on the grounds that the fee was imposed on the wrong party, since the vessel was operated by the operator at that time. However, the owner had not raised this argument when the fee had been imposed and the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.
Pursuant to the Maritime Code, maritime safety authorities can request a master on a foreign flagged vessel to give a maritime declaration, but the effect of this request can be challenged. It is unclear if the criminalisation stipulation in case of failure concerns a master on a foreign flagged vessel and if the authorities have the right to detain the vessel in order to encourage the master to give the maritime declaration.
The Helsinki Appeal Court recently overruled a judgment regarding an oil pollution payment. A vessel was suspected of leaking oil and the Border Guard had imposed an oil discharge fee on the vessel owner. The owner appealed on the grounds that the fee had been imposed on the wrong party, since the vessel had been operated by the operator at the time. The court accepted the appeal and annulled the discharge fee.
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority recently investigated suspected abuse of the dominant market position of major harbour towage service operators. Based on a competitor's complaint the authority investigated the suspected abuse in harbour towage services in the port of HaminaKotka and other parts of the Finnish coast. The authority found no form of abuse of dominant position in the operators' activities.
The Turku Appeal Court recently confirmed a Turku Maritime Court decision regarding the question of title to wreck and the right of salvage. The decision illustrates the criteria that must be fulfilled for the removal of a wreck to be regarded as salvage and will hopefully serve as a guideline to salvors in the future.
Amendments to the Municipal Act and other reforms are set to change the ownership structures of ports, with the aim of enhancing competition within and between ports. Under the new regime, a municipality must establish a corporation for all of its activities when it acts in competitive markets. Meanwhile, the much-debated fairway dues are also subject to possible revision.
A mail courier company distributed printed advertisements for a retailer based on an assessment of the number of households in different post codes. The retailer claimed that this assessment was incorrect, leading to a shortfall in some areas and a surplus in others. The Helsinki Appeal Court held that the advertisements constituted goods and their delivery constituted transport; the advertisements could not be regarded as mail.