The recent report on maritime security of supply is a great opening on the Finnish security of supply when maritime transport concerned. It pushes us to change the focus from the Finnish flag during the state of war, towards other disruptions in supply chains and different operating models, taking into account also alternative routes, forms of transport and the foreign tonnage that is important for our country’s transport.
On February 28, 2023, the Finnish National Emergency Supply Agency published the meritorious report “Capacity of security of supply of Finnish Maritime Transport”. The work has a fine analysis of the fleet serving Finland and the tonnage under the Finnish flag, as well as various export and import transports of Finland. In addition, the biggest challenges of Finnish shipping are highlighted, which are the availability of the crew and the industry’s adaptation to strictening environmental regulations.
The work has also analysed the adequacy of the Finnish fleet in crisis circumstances. According to the report, for example, the Finnish ro-ro/ro-pax capacity would seem to be sufficient to satisfy the entire transport need of the crisis situation, but the container ship capacity is not sufficient hardly at all.
What is significant, however, is the report’s statement that only in a state of war (or a threat of war or a hybrid threat) do the authorities have the opportunity to take control of the tonnage moving under the Finnish flag – not otherwise. Elsewhere in the report, it is stated that “in an extreme situation, i.e. if the international situation has drifted into an armed conflict in which Finland is involved, the Finnish registry can turn from an advantage to a disadvantage for an individual ship. In such a case, the opposite party can seize such a vessel and intern its crew in its own ports, in the territories of allied countries or in international maritime areas. Similarly, in a military crisis in which Finland is involved, the jurisdiction of the Finnish authorities can extend to a ship registered in an enemy country. The importance of the Finnish register from the point of view of security of supply is therefore not clear-cut”. Finland’s registry is not a solution for security of supply, even in a war situation.
It is also noteworthy that the actual war situation or the threat of it is a very unlikely security of supply crisis. In much more likely supply security and supply chain crises, such as the production crisis occurring elsewhere in the world, the authorities do not even have the opportunity to take control of the tonnage moving under the Finnish flag.
It is very delighful, that the maritime market and tonnage under foreign flags, have been in the work. Moreover, operating models have been thought out to manage security-of-supply critical situations with the help of transports performed by foreign shipping companies, such as agreements on prioritization of transports or joint mooring of ships.
The work should definitely be expanded by analyzing how crises smaller than wartime, such as production crises in other parts of the world, affect the supply security of Finnish imports and exports and maritime transport. This work is a great opening for us to open up the Finnish supply security discussion about the Finnish flag and war time, as well as various disruptions in supply chains and various operating models, taking into account also alternative routes, modes of transport and the foreign tonnage that are important for our country’s transport.