Baltic Sea pollution increases after introduction of preventative law

This year has seen the highest level of pollution by ships in the Baltic in recent years despite a new law encouraging companies not to dump waste at sea.


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A recently introduced system under which ports in the Baltic Sea cannot charge visiting ships extra for dealing with their wastes has failed to stop large numbers of ships from discharging oil at sea, the Finnish Environment Institute said.

Despite the no-special fee system recently introduced by all countries bordering the Baltic, under which ship waste management costs are integrated into general port charges, aerial monitoring has discovered nine oil slicks of up to 8km in length along 800km of shipping lanes, a Finnish Environment Institute spokesperson told edie.

“We are not too sure why the new system has failed, because it doesn’t cost shipping companies any more money”, she said. “I can only think that it might be because Russia, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian ports don’t have as much cleaning equipment and ships do not want to wait a long time.”

The spokesperson added that no-one had been caught as a result of the surveillance, which began on 21 August, because the discharges had already been made and there were too many ships in the areas to identify any one as a culprit. She revealed that this year to date has seen the most waste emissions in the Baltic since 1997, despite the law’s widely-publicised introduction in 1999.

The law was introduced by HELCOM, the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, which calls for action to curb land, marine and aerial pollution of the Baltic Sea, and its recommendations are incorporated into the national legislation of member countries. It was thought that the legislation would eliminate any economic incentive for ships to illegally clean out tanks while at sea.

In July the EU rejected a similar directive proposing a no-special fee system for all its waters.

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