HELCOM to call on IMO to establish a total ban on sewage discharges from ships in the Baltic
Helsinki, 2 March (HELCOM Information Service) – Government officials of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Commission will convene at the 30th annual HELCOM Meeting on 4-5 March in Helsinki to review the organisation’s progress in the protection of the Baltic marine environment from pollution and set new objectives and priorities for future work.
The implementation of the ambitious Baltic Sea Action Plan to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment by 2021, which was adopted by HELCOM in 2007, will be the topmost issue on the agenda of the two-day Meeting. In particular, the Meeting is expected to adopt the content of the joint submission paper to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to establish the Baltic Sea as a special area for sewage under Annex IV of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78). According to the HELCOM proposal, the discharge of sewage by passenger ships operating in the Baltic would be banned unless the wastewater has been treated to remove nutrients to the agreed standard. Optionally sewage could be delivered to port reception facilities.
“Currently international regulations do not contain requirements to remove nutrients from ships’ sewage prior to discharge into the sea,” says Monika Stankiewicz, Professional Secretary for maritime and oil accident response issues at HELCOM. “The nutrient pollution loads originating from wastewater discharges from ships into the Baltic Sea, even though rather small, are not negligible due to the high sensitivity of the marine environment.”
The joint paper has been developed according to the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan and following the consultations among the HELCOM countries and stakeholders representing NGOs and shipping industry for more than a year. The proposal will be officially submitted to the 59th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which will take place on 13-17 July 2009.
HELCOM is expected to adopt new voluntary guidelines requesting vessels leaving the Baltic and transiting to the destinations outside the North-East Atlantic to discharge their ballast water in the open sea as required by the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) so as to decrease the risk of alien species’ introduction in the North Sea and worldwide. This is already a second voluntary measure of this kind to be applied in the HELCOM and OSPAR area, following the Voluntary Guidance requiring ships to exchange their ballast water before entering the North and the Baltic seas. The Baltic Sea countries committed themselves to ratify the BWMC by 2010, at the latest by 2013.
The Meeting will consider the outcome of the Fourth Stakeholder Conference on the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, which takes place on 3 March in Helsinki. Cost-effective implementation of an international programme of actions to radically reduce pollution to the Baltic Sea will be the major theme of the Conference. The Conference will consist of three thematic sessions focusing on the new HELCOM biodiversity and eutrophication assessments which are setting a baseline for implementing the measures of the plan, economic perspective of the protection of the Baltic Sea, as well as issues of regional cooperation in strengthening the knowledge base for cost-efficient implementation of the plan.
The annual Commission Meeting will also review the activities of the HELCOM Subsidiary Groups, as well as working programmes, intersessional work and ongoing projects, including the implementation of the Baltic Sea Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action Programme (JCP).
The annual Meeting of the Helsinki Commission will take place at the Marina Congress Center in Helsinki. It will be conducted by HELCOM’s Chairman, Mr. Igor Maydanov.
Press release on the Fourth Stakeholder Conference on the Baltic Sea Action Plan http://www.helcom.fi/press_office/news_helcom/en_GB/Fourth_St_Conference_BSAP/
and Media Advisory: http://www.helcom.fi/press_office/news_helcom/en_GB/Media_Advisory_HELCOM30/
Note to Editors:
The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), is an intergovernmental organisation of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Community working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region.
HELCOM is the governing body of the "Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area," more usually known as the Helsinki Convention.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Nikolay Vlasov
Tel: +358 (0)207 412 635
Fax: +358 (0)207 412 639