Baltic Sea law

The Baltic Sea is arguably the world's most heavily regulated sea area. Several layers of regulation apply there and a number of organizations are engaged in its well-being.

There are up to six layers of regulation acting in parallel in the Baltic Sea region. Yet these layers do not always interact well. The norms of different regulatory layers display both overlaps and gaps and are interrelated through a complex and constantly evolving relationship which needs to be assessed case by case. The relationship and hierarchy depends on, among other things, the subject matter, the EU’s internal and external competence in the matter and, of course, the national laws of the state(s) concerned.

Another remarkable feature about the Baltic Sea is the number of transnational bodies and organisations involved in its well-being. In particular, the end of the Cold War period brought along a variety of new institutions and formal and informal frameworks, which address the matters of common concern in the region. However, the legal basis of these bodies tends to be quite ‘soft’, which reduces their capacity to contribute to solutions with a normative impact, such as the adoption of new rules and the effective enforcement of existing ones. Out of the multitude of governmental co-operation bodies and platforms that operate specifically in and for the Baltic Sea region, only one, the Helsinki Commission (Helcom), is a clear-cut intergovernmental organization based on a classical founding treaty (Helsinki Convention), which at least in theory provides a solid platform for further regulatory developments. Other key organisations, such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States, have not been established by treaty and have no legislative or regulatory powers in a formal sense.

Such a multi-layered and multi-institutional regulatory setting provides fertile ground for researchers interested in multi-level governance and regulation and the hierarchy and conflict of different kinds of norms. This is one of the main focuses of BALEX.

Read more:

Henrik Ringbom's article Regulating the Baltic Sea” on Baltic Rim Economies (Issue 4/2014, page 36-37).

Saara Ilvessalo’s and Henrik Ringbom’s article BALEX - a new legal network for the world’s most regulated sea” on Baltic Rim Economies (Issue 6/2016, page 10).

More about BALEX


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15.01.2019 11:58 BALEX RT @HELCOMInfo: How well do you really know the #HelsinkiConvention? On the occasion of its anniversary on 17 January, we are offering a qu…

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09.01.2019 11:43 BALEX RT @maritimemag1: New year marked by the entry into force of new amendments to MARPOL L’entrée en vigueur de nouveaux amendements à MARPOL…

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09.01.2019 11:38 BALEX RT @Nodularia: New year and new initiatives. I continue devoting most of my time to work on marine environment issues in the Ministry but w…


Saara Ilvessalo
LL.M., Coordinator
Baltic Area Legal Studies BALEX
+358 400 809 822
Vanha Suurtori 7
20500 Turku, Finland

Henrik Ringbom
BALEX Research Coordinator
Adjunct Professor (Docent) in maritime law and the law of the sea
+358 40 763 10 71
Department of Law
Åbo Akademi University