0 General


0.1 Important

This Mariners' Routeing Guide does not replace information contained in official nautical charts and other official nautical publications published by services on the authority of national Governments. Masters should carefully and in good time plan their passages through the Baltic, making use of navigational charts of sufficiently large scale and with enough detail to ensure the safety of navigation. Only the latest edition of the charts and publications must be used and continuously be kept up to date.
To ensure the safe navigation of his vessel, the master shall act with the care and diligence as required by the ordinary practice of seamen or by the special circumstances of the case, as appropriate under the provision of Rule 2 of the Collision Regulations; he shall take account of the traffic information - such information being given in the national language and, upon request, in English - and shall make use of the vessel traffic services provided as appropriate in the light of prevailing traffic conditions; he shall also comply with any traffic regulations which have been imposed.

0.2 Publications

HELCOM has published a Clean Seas Guide which is available either as printed version or on Internet via www.helcom.fi . Hydrographic offices of the states along the Baltic coast publish nautical publications, covering either just their own coastline or the whole of the Baltic Sea area.

See list of publications in English or where English translations are available

0.3 Navigational Charts

Navigational charts in appropriate scales are published by or on behalf of government hydrographic offi ces of the states along the Baltic Sea coast. Masters must use the latest edition of the offi cial navigational charts suffi cient in both scale and detail to ensure the safety of navigation.
Charts and publications must always be kept up to date. The main shipping routes in the Baltic Sea area and adjacent coastal waters, harbour approaches and ports are covered by offi cial Electronic Navigational Charts for use in ECDIS systems.

0.4 Virtual AIS Aids to Navigation

Mariners should take into account the existence of the presentation of virtual AIS Aids to Navigation in the Baltic Sea areas where navigation is difficult or in areas where there is a potential risk of collision.
The chart presentation of virtual AIS Aids to Navigation is not suffi ciently developed for both paper charts and electronic equipment.

1 Route Planning

1.1 General 

Masters shall ensure that their intended routes through the Baltic Sea area have been planned carefully using the appropriate nautical charts and publications. The voyage plan shall take the following into account: 

  • chart datum; charted depths are normally referred to MSL (Mean Sea Level);
  • draught and size of vessel and depth limitations in order to ensure sufficient sea room for the safe passage of the ship;
  • avoidance of any action or activities that could cause damage to the environment;
  • condition of the vessel‘s navigational and manoeuvring equipment;
  • all known navigational hazards and adverse weather conditions;
  • measures during night passages;
  • traffic density in different areas of the Baltic Sea;
  • use of pilot for safe passage and/or when approaching or leaving harbour;
  • detailed information on designated anchorages and waiting areas can be obtained from the relevant navigational charts;
  • during winter conditions, the existence and positions of floating aids to navigation and the use of sector lights require special attention;
  • present status of currents and water level;
  • “Land rise” is prevailing in many parts of the Baltic Sea. The greatest influences upon the water depth are in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea, see Chapter 4.3;
  • not all paper charts have been transferred to the international horizontal datum WGS 84.

1.2 Ships´ Routeing Systems

In the Baltic Sea area numerous ships’ routeing systems have been established in order to ensure a safe passage. According to Chapter V of the SOLAS convention the master shall take into account any relevant ships’ routeing systems.
Masters are advised that, at several places, the entrances to the Baltic Sea area are diffi cult to navigate. Therefore the publication ”Navigation through Danish Waters”, should be used in addition to relevant charts. ”Navigation through Danish Waters” is only published on the Internet, where a free updated copy is available: (see 0.2, Denmark). Detailed information on approaches, fairways and separation schemes can be obtained from local VTS Centres.

1.3 Hazards

Masters are advised that dense traffic, fishing, yachting and occasional off-shore activities can be encountered in the Baltic Sea area. Low coastlines and frequently reduced visibility requires special attention. All practical methods must be used for safe and continuous fixing of the vessel’s position. Furthermore depths even under normal conditions, may decrease by as much as 2 metres due to a combination of tidal and meteorological conditions or uncharted or moving obstructions.

2 Routeing

2.1 Collision Regulations

Vessels must comply with Rule 10 of the Collision Regulations (COLREGs) and the information provided in “Ships’ Routeing”, published by the IMO.

2.2 National rules

Guidance on regulations, which are important for planning a safe passage through the Baltic Sea area, are provided in this „Mariners’ Routeing Guide for the Baltic Sea“. Information on any special national laws are provided in the relevant nautical publications, see Chapter 0.

2.3 Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS)

TSSs are established in the Baltic Sea area, where high traffic density can be expected or in waters that are difficult to navigate. Some of them are IMO adopted, others are not. Due to ice conditions TSSs may be temporarily cancelled by the national authorities. Such cancellations are announced on NAVTEX and through NtM.

Inshore Traffic Zones are established at certain TSSs. Navigation within the Inshore Traffic Zones may be subject to national regulations. Brief details are given on the chart. Special rules and recommendations apply to particular TSSs and other associated routeing measures. They are summarised in notes given on the charts. Where defined, the minimum water depth and where stated, the authorized maximum draught of each TSS are also indicated on this guide. Information on any national laws and regulations is provided in relevant nautical publications, see Chapter 0.

2.4 DW Routes

DW Routes are established where navigable water for deep draught vessels is restricted. The minimum water depth and where stated the authorized maximum draught of each DW Route are indicated on this routeing guide.

2.5 Traffic surveillance

In the Baltic Sea area the movements of vessels are monitored. Penalties can be imposed for vessels which navigate contrary to COLREG Rule 10.

3 Environmental Protection

3.1 General

The provisions of MARPOL 73/78 as amended must be observed. Special attention shall be given to: 

  • Annex I – Definition of special areas including the Baltic Sea area; and
  • Annex VI – Regulations for air pollution prevention from ships, where the Baltic Sea has been designated as an SOx Emission Control Area (SECA).

The Baltic Sea is under intensive surveillance for pollution and violations of traffic rules. Shore based radar, aircraft, helicopters, and vessels of the coast guard and/or maritime police are used for surveillance. The use of electronic remote-sensing equipment by aircraft enables almost any kind of oil pollution to be detected regardless of visibility, even at night. Detection is even possible when detergents have been added to the oil discharged. Surveillance helicopters and vessels are equipped with sampling devices. 

Any person found guilty of polluting the Baltic Sea can be punished. Masters are strongly recommended to make use of the reception facilities available in ports for oil or chemical slops, waste, residues, garbage and any other pollutants on board ship.

3.2 PSSA status of the Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea area, with the exception of waters under sovereignty and jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, is classified as a PSSA (Particularly Sensitive Sea Area).

3.3 MARPOL reports

Reporting requirements in accordance with Article 17 of Directive 2002/59/EC (Reporting of incidents and accidents at sea) and in addition to MARPOL (Article 8 and Protocol I to that Convention) as implemented by the national legislation of EU and EEA member states, will apply to all ships of 300 GT or more with the exception of:

  • fishing vessels;
  • traditional ships; or
  • recreational craft having a length of less than 45 metres; and
  • ships with respect to bunker fuel of less than 5 000 tonnes.

MARPOL reports can be sent via every coastal radio station.
The responsible organisations for MARPOL reports are listed below. The organisations co-ordinate the necessary measures for assistance and rescue, when incidents occur and cargo (especially dangerous or polluting goods) is damaged, or when the sea is, or may be, polluted.

See list of responsible organizations for MARPOL reports

The organisations co-ordinate the necessary measures for assistance and rescue, when incidents occur and cargo (especially dangerous or polluting goods) is damaged, or when the sea is, or may be, polluted.

4 Natural Conditions

4.1 Sea level and current 

Differences in the sea level may occur due to strong wind, variation in atmospheric pressure and seasonal changes in the amount of water discharged by rivers. These factors can also raise or lower the water level typically by about 1 metre from the MSL elsewhere in the Baltic Sea. Powerful currents can follow the direction of strong winds. These wind drift currents may strengthen, weaken or reverse the prevailing surface current.

Due to a combination of tidal and meteorological conditions or uncharted or moving obstructions on the sea bottom and sand migration the sea level may decrease significantly. In the Danish Straits, the water level can be as much as 2 metres less than charted. Historically, extreme ranges have been recorded of up to 4.7 metres at the head of the Gulf of Finland and 3.3 metres at the head of the Gulf of Bothnia.

4.2 Ice

Ice conditions can be a serious threat to navigation in certain areas during the period from November to May, especially in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea. The ice conditions vary greatly from year to year, see Chapter 5.

4.3 Land rise 

Land rise is prevailing in many parts of the Baltic Sea. Its greatest influence on the water depth is experienced in the northern parts of the Baltic Sea, e.g. in the Gulf of Bothnia the bottom is ascending approx. 0.9 cm/year. Most nautical charts of the Baltic Sea use MSL (Mean Sea Level) as the vertical chart datum. When navigating in waters affected by land rise, the charted depths must be reduced by a value determined by multiplying the size of yearly land rise by the number of years elapsed since the charts “MSL-year”. That could be more than 0.9 metres. 

5 Ice Information

5.1 International co-operation

Nordic icebreaker collaboration takes place in the Gulf of Bothnia, the Åland Sea, the Baltic Sea north of the latitude through Dueodde on Bornholm, and in The Sound, the Kattegat and Skagerrak between open water and waters protected from sea ice, drift ice, pack ice, and similar ice hazards.

5.2 Icebreaking information services

In winter conditions the ship reporting systems and national VTS services provide information on way points and contact information of icebreakers for ships sailing in the area. Information about operational icebreaking services in the Baltic Sea area can be obtained from the icebreaking Service provided by each coastal state:

See list of icebreaking information services

Information issued by the respective Administrations can be found on the common website www.baltice.org

5.3 Winterisation of ships 

Ships should be adapted for safe operation at low outdoor air temperatures down to minus 30°C. This applies to the hull structure material, deck equipment (anchor handling and mooring, towing and cargo handling), the main engine cooling system, and the material of the propeller including its sufficient immersion to reduce interaction with ice. The stability of ships at low air temperatures under open water conditions should be sufficient taking into account the probability and the danger of ice accretion. The responsible Administrations may set operational instructions for ships sailing in ice-covered waters. 

5.4 Information about ice conditions

Information about ice conditions in the Baltic Sea area can be obtained from the national ice services that are listed below and from the common websites: http://www.bsis-ice.de and www.baltice.org An icechart is available for very fast downolad: http://www.smhi.se/icechart 

See list of national ice services

5.5 Safety requirements 

The Authorities and Administrations of countries around the Baltic Sea may set traffic restrictions for the safety of vessels sailing in ice conditions. Adequate ice strengthening is required for ships sailing in ice conditions. Even more stringent traffic restrictions than required by ice strengthening may be applied for operational reasons. 

5.6 Equivalence of ice classification rules

The equivalence of the ice classes of different Classification Societies with the Finnish-Swedish Ice Class Rules is based on a comparison of hull structural requirements. Equivalence is assessed based on the principle that the hull structural strength given by the rules of a classification society is to a similar standard as the hull structural strength obtained by applying the Finnish-Swedish Ice Class Rules. The requirements of the Finnish-Swedish Ice Class Rules regarding the power of the main engines should also be met. The equivalence table can be found as an annex in the HELCOM Recommendation 25/7 

See list of equivalence of ice classification rules

5.7 Dates of traffic restrictions

The normally expected dates for traffic restrictions due to ice, on the Swedish side of the Gulf of Bothnia, for various ice and tonnage classes.

See list of normally expected dates for traffic restrictions due to ice

6 Vessel Traffic Service (VTS)

6.1 General 

VTS centres are established in several parts of the Baltic Sea. They monitor the traffic by different means such as AIS, radar, infrared sensor systems etc. and can provide different categories of services. Some of the VTS centres are operating Ship Reporting Systems. VTS centres give guidance to support the on board navigation. Some VTS centres in territorial waters as e.g. ports, rivers or bays etc. can give instructions which must be followed. Continuous VHF listening watch must be kept on the relevant frequencies. VTS centres at some coasts and ports in the Baltic Sea area require vessels to make contact when in transit through the area controlled by the VTS, additionally some countries recommend vessels to make contact with VTS centres whilst transiting the respective exclusive economic zone, including vessels that do not intend to call at the port. Detailed information is provided in relevant nautical publications, see Chapter 0.

6.2 VTSs coverage

Detailed information can be found in relevant nautical publications, see Chapter 0.

See list of VTS centres

7 Pilot Services

7.1 Deep-sea pilotage

Deep-sea pilotage helps to enhance the safety of navigation and prevention of pollution of the marine environment, in particular to reduce the risks resulting from higher traffic densities of vessels carrying dangerous or noxious cargoes. The presence of a deep-sea pilot on board strengthens a vessel's navigational team and improves the ability to carry out emergency measures in case of incidents. Masters are recommended by the IMO Resolution A.1081 (28) and the Baltic Pilotage Authorities Commission (BPAC) to take a deep-sea pilot for those vessels which:
• are constrained by their draught;
• are not registered in one of the Baltic states, infrequently sailing in the respective area and coming from or bound for ports in
the Baltic Sea; or
• are oil tankers in loaded condition and all loaded chemical tankers and gas carriers, irrespective of size.
Pilotage in the Kattegat, the Sound and the Belts, between the Skaw-Vinga line and the southern entrances to the Sound and the Belts may only be properly undertaken by licensed Danish and Swedish pilots. Deep-sea pilotage in the Baltic Sea area may only be properly undertaken by deep-sea pilots licensed by a pilotage authority of a Baltic coastal state. North Sea pilots may pilot inbound vessels up to the Skaw-Vinga line and outbound vessels from this line. 
Deep-sea pilotage in the Baltic Sea area shall be performed by deep-sea pilots from the respective ports of departure of the Baltic coastal states only, including the Kiel-Holtenau locks, the Sound and the Belts. Deep-sea pilots shall disembark from vessels at their first port of call. If a vessel requires further advice from a deep-sea pilot, it is the responsibility of the local pilotage authority of that port to supply such a deep-sea pilot. Further information is provided on the website
: www.balticpilotage.org

Regarding use of pilotage service attention is called to IMO recommendation announced in SN.1/Circ.263 
subparagraph 1.9 concerning navigation through the Danish straits to and from the Baltic Sea.
Route “T”
Ships with a draught of 11 m or more and ships irrespective of size or draught, carrying a shipment of irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high-level radioactive wastes on board ships (INF cargoes) should use for the passage the pilotage services locally established by the coastal states.

The Sound
Loaded oil tankers with a draught of 7 m or more, loaded chemical tankers and gas carriers, irrespective of size, and ships carrying a shipment of irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high-level radioactive wastes (INF cargoes), when navigating the Sound between a line connecting Svinbådan Lighthouse and Hornbæk Harbour and a line connecting Skanör Harbour and Aflandshage (the southernmost point of Amager island) should use the pilotage services established by the Governments of Denmark and Sweden.

See list of Deep-sea pilots

7.2 District pilotage

District pilotage is available for certain areas. They provide pilotage for approaching/entering harbours or for passage through waters difficult to navigate e.g. through the Kalmar Sound and the Archipelagos of Stockholm and Turku/Åbo.

Pilotage should generally be ordered at least 24 hours in advance. Further details on compulsory pilotage, notices and requirements is provided in relevant nautical publications.

8 Maritime Assistance Service

8.1 General 

MAS can be involved in the following situations:

  • a ship is in a situation, apart from one requiring rescue of persons on board, that could give rise to the loss of the vessel
    or an environmental or navigational hazard;
  • the ship is in need of assistance but not necessarily in a distress situation (about to sink, fire developing, etc.) that requires
    the rescue of those on board; and
  • those on board have already been rescued, with the possible exception of those who have remained aboard or have been
    placed on board attempting to deal with the ship
    ,s situation.

8.2 MAS of costal states.pdf

9 Maritime Radio Service


All coastal waters in the Baltic Sea area are covered by shore-based VHF DSC stations and are hence classified as GMDSS Sea Area A1.
The central parts of the larger basins are not reached by VHF but are fully covered by MF DSC and NAVTEX and are classified as GMDSS Sea Area A2.

9.2 Maritime Safety Information (MSI)

Coastal navigational warnings, gale warnings, SAR warnings, weather forecasts and ice reports are transmitted on NAVTEX and in parts of the Baltic Sea area also on VHF and/or MF radiotelephony.

Local navigational warnings are transmitted by various VTSs, MRCCs, Coastal Radio Stations and Port Radio Stations, see relevant nautical publications.

9.3 Forecast areas, NAVTEX, MF stations

Forecast areas for weather warnings are shown in figure 9.3.1.
NAVTEX service areas and transmission schedules are shown in figure 9.3.2.
MF stations and transmission schedules are shown in figure 9.3.3. 

Figure 9.3.1


Figure 9.3.2

Figure 9.3.3

10 Reporting Systems

10.1 General 

Four reporting systems are in force in the Baltic Sea area. Traffic area BELTREP covers the water of the Great Belt Bridge area
and the Hatter Barn in the Storebælt (Great Belt). SOUNDREP covers the Sound between Denmark and Sweden, GDANREP
covers the approaches to the Polish ports in the Gulf of Gdańsk and GOFREP covers the Gulf of Finland. Participation in
BELTREP, SOUNDREP, GOFREP and GDANREP are IMO Mandatory Ship Reporting Systems (SRS) under SOLAS Regulation
V/11. More detailed information is presented on the chart. For full details of all reporting systems see the relevant nautical publications,
see chapter 0. The SRS’ are operated by local VTS centres. Online information can be obtained for
• BELTREP at http://www.beltrep.org
• GOFREP at https://tmfg.fi/en/vts/monitoring-international-waters
• GDANREP at http://www.umgdy.gov.pl/?page_id=1526
• SOUNDREP at http://www.sjofartsverket.se/sound-vts

11 Other Reports

11.1 Reporting to a port of destination in the Baltic Sea

Some ports may require ETAs to be first notified long in advance of the arrival time, possibly long before entering the area covered by this chart. For details, see the relevant nautical publications, see Chapter 0 and 11.3.

11.2 ISPS reports

According to the ISPS Code, ports require information about each vessel and her security status. For further details see relevant nautical publications, see Chapter 0.

11.3 Reports required by European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/59/EC

Under the requirements applicable in the EU (including also Norway) and implemented by national legislation, ships bound for a port have a responsibility to make two kinds of routine reports or notifications, namely when dangerous or polluting goods (Hazmat) cargoes are carried or regardless of the cargo, notifications 24 hours in advance of entry into port. For more details on precise application and notification procedures it is necessary to refer to national legislation and Chapter 0.