In 2011, there were 683 (670 in 2010) merchant ships (length >= 15 meters) in the Finnish-flagged fleet. The total gross tonnage was 1,61 (1,53) million. Finnish shipping companies owned 46 (49) foreign-flagged ships with a total gross tonnage of 1,14 (1,19) million, and had long-term time charters of 77 (75) ships with total gross tonnage of 0,97 (0,95) million in 2011.

About 90 percent of Finnish exports and 80 percent of imports are carried by sea, and more than 60 percent of international passenger traffic also goes by ship.

Shipping between Finland and other countries is directed mainly at Baltic Sea, North Sea and other European ports.

The volume of seaborne foreign transports has doubled in the last two decades. The increase has been very even, an average of  3 percent a year. In 2011 seaborne transports increased by nearly 5 million tons as a total of nearly 98,5 (93,3 in 2010) million tons of goods was shipped. Imports increased by 5 per cent compared to last year and amounted to 54 (51) million tons in 2011, while exports increased by 6 per cent to 44 (42) million tons. In 2011 Finland’s own foreign trade transports increased by 5 million tons, compared to last year and amounted to a total of 91 (86) million tons in 2011. Transit transports were 7 ,5 (7,4) million tons.

During the past ten years, the share of Finnish tonnage of sea transports has varied on each side of 40 percent. The long-term trend is downward: in the 1960s the Finnish tonnage had an average share of 51 %, in the 1970s 49 %, in the 1980s 46 % and in the 1990s, 39 %. The total gross tonnage of Finland’s actual merchant fleet showed a relatively even growth up to the early 1980s. In the mid 1980s the merchant fleet diminished heavily.

The number of seaborne passengers increased from the early 1980s until the break at the start of the new millennium. In 2011 nearly 17,7 (17,4 in 2010) million passengers were carried between Finland and other countries (arrivals + departures), which is 1,8 (3,4) % more than previous year. Sweden accounted for 51,5 (53,5) percent and Estonia for 41,5 (40,1) percent.

Pursuant to the Act on Enhancing the Competitiveness of Ships Used for Carriage by Sea (1277/2007) government subsidy may be granted to Finnish ships which have been entered in the Merchant Vessel Register. Passenger ships, cargo ships, tugs and integrated tug-barge vessels that will mainly be engaged on international voyages during the year covered by the subsidy may, on request, be entered in the Merchant Vessel Register, provided they have also been entered in the Finnish Register of Ships. In 2011, 109 (113 in 2010) vessels were in the Merchant Vessel Register with total gross tonnage of 1,40 (1,33) million. The average age was 20 (21) years.