Boating on the Midsummer weekend: Remember to designate a boatmaster in charge of your boating trips on Midsummer as well

Last year, there were more than 2,100 accidents related to recreational boating in Finland. Statistics show that the majority of accidents tend to occur in July, which was the case last year as well, when nearly a third of all boating accidents took place in July. As the boating season is about to begin, it is time to go through the guidelines for safe and responsible boating and the new Water Traffic Act, which entered into force on 1 June and includes all traffic regulations on water traffic.

“The purpose of the new Water Traffic Act is to increase the safety of water traffic and to make the daily lives of boaters easier by making the regulations and guidelines available in a single document. Our view is that by providing clearer basic rules, we can help all boaters and support the spread of responsible boating culture,” says Jarkko Saarimäki, Deputy Director General of Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.

A boatmaster responsible for the safety of others must always be designated

An important aspect of the new Water Traffic Act is the increased responsibility of the boatmaster. The boatmaster must always be designated before departing. The boatmaster is responsible for the safety of the craft and ensuring that everyone on the boat has received the safety instructions. The boatmaster is also responsible for ensuring that all equipment is easily available and that personal flotation aids are not locked away during the boat trip, for example.

Additional new responsibilities of the boatmaster include:

  • ensuring that the craft is equipped with maps if planning a route is required due to current conditions, the length of the trip or another reason
  • ensuring that equipment (e.g. personal flotation aids) are easily available
  • ensuring that the personal flotation aids are worn whenever necessary due to the current conditions

Select appropriate lifejackets according to the intended use

Lifejackets are among the most important basic equipment for boaters. Lifejackets should be selected according to their intended use and the appropriate size should be determined by trying them on before buying them, especially when purchasing lifejackets for children. This Midsummer, set an example, wear a lifejacket and ensure that your friends and relatives do the same. 

Learn how to give way – there are no rights of way in water traffic, only obligations to give way

Finland has one of the largest number of boats per capita in the world. In June 2019, there were 217,000 registered boats in Finland. In addition, there were nearly one million more boats that do not need to be registered. The busy summer season always includes encounters between recreational and commercial vessels. Even one near miss is unacceptable.

“The rules of water traffic apply to both commercial and recreational vessels. Boaters should be particularly attentive in narrow and tricky fairways where the safe passage of commercial vessels is difficult due to their large draughts and slow mobility. This means that everyone needs to maintain a safe distance from commercial vessels and remember that recreational vessels are obligated to give way to commercial vessels in all commercial fairways and the deep fairways of Saimaa,” says Sari Talja, VTS Finland’s Operative Director of maritime transport.

Learn more about obligations to give way:

  • A boat encounters a ship: A craft or a sailing vessel shorter than 20 metres cannot prevent the passage of a ship that can only navigate safely in a narrow fairway. In practice, all commercial fairways on our coast are considered to be narrow fairways of this type, which means all boats and sailboats must give way to ships.
  • Two boats are directly heading towards each other: Give way to the right.
  • Two boats are heading towards each other from the side: The boat on the left-hand side gives way.
  • A motor boat and a sailboat are heading towards each other: The motor boat must give way to the sailboat, unless the sailboat is powered by a motor.
  • A stationary and a moving vessel are about to come into contact: The passing vessel must go around the stationary vessel.

Was there a missing beacon on a fairway? Your feedback helps maintain the fairways

Lakes in Finland were not completely frozen last winter. This has contributed to the fact that beacons have largely remained in place. Fairway and beacon inspections have already been carried out in many locations and detected faults have been repaired. Feedback from boaters is always welcome, however, including feedback about missing beacons.

Information about missing beacons can be provided to the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency by calling +358 (0)800 181818. 

Other feedback about fairways can be given by accessing the Traffic Customer Service (https://palautevayla.fi/aspa?lang=en) or the water traffic feedback application (https://extranet.vayla.fi/pooki_www/palaute).