Cooperation Platform on Port Reception Facilities in the Baltic Sea
In 2009, 2010 and 2011 the Contracting Parties submitted a joint proposal to IMO to amend Annex IV of MARPOL 73/78 and to designate the Baltic Sea as a special area for sewage discharges from passenger ships (Proposal to amend MARPOL Annex IV, Guidelines for designation of special areas, Background paper regarding the Baltic Sea, Supplementary information, Ongoing HELCOM activities). The proposal has been approved by the 61st Session of IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee and adopted by MEPC 62 in July 2011.
A joint paper was also submitted to the 55th session of the IMO’s Design and Equipment Sub-Committee (March 2011) to contribute to the revision of guidelines on implementation of effluent standards and performance tests for sewage treatment plants (Information and proposals of the Baltic Sea States submitted to MEPC on nutrient reduction technology and nutrient removal standards for sewage treatment plan).
Passenger ships operating within the Baltic Sea Special Area will be required to treat sewage onboard to remove nutrients prior to the discharge into the sea or deliver it to a port reception facility (PRF). The new regulations will come into effect when the Baltic Sea countries have notified IMO about availability of adequate PRF in their passenger ports.
A Cooperation Platform on Port Reception Facilities in the Baltic Sea has been established with the aim to promote dialogue and exchange experience on good practices in planning, implementing and operating PRF for sewage. All key stakeholders, including Baltic Sea passenger ports, shipping industry, national administrations and municipal wastewater treatment plants, are invited to participate. One of the tasks of the Platform is to identify areas for improvement in reception facilities for sewage in the prioritized passenger ports according to the Road Map for upgrading PRF adopted by the 2010 HELCOM Moscow Ministerial Meeting. The Terms of Reference of the Cooperation Platform can be viewed here.
Special measures for a special sea
In accordance with MARPOL 73/78, under which the Baltic Sea area has been designated as a special area under Annexes I and V, far-reaching prohibitions and restrictions on any discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures and garbage have been introduced by the Baltic Sea States.
The Baltic Sea had been also a special area in relation to discharges of noxious liquid substances until revised Annex II of MARPOL 73/78 came into force in 2007, which upheld however the same demanding restrictions.
In addition, regulations concerning the discharge of sewage into the sea and the prohibition of incineration of ship-generated wastes in the territorial seas of the Baltic Sea States have been adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention.
There is also a general ban on dumping and incineration of other wastes, not incidental to or derived from the normal operation of ships, in the entire Baltic Sea area.
Nevertheless, several hundreds of illegal discharges are observed during aerial surveillance flights by the Baltic Sea States and the total amount of pollution cases is considered to be even higher.
The Baltic Strategy
To address the issue of pollution of the marine environment by ship-generated waste the Helsinki Commission has elaborated and approved the Strategy for Port Reception Facilities for Ship-generated Wastes and Associated Issues, also known as the Baltic Strategy, which comprises a set of measures and regulations with the main goals to ensure ships' compliance with global and regional discharge regulations and to eliminate illegal discharges into the sea of all wastes from all ships.
Check our Clean Seas Guide for a comprehensive overview of the anti-pollution regulations applicable to the ships in the Baltic.
No good reason for not using port reception facilities
Over 210 port reception facilities are provided in ports located around the Baltic Sea. These facilities should be able to meet the needs of ships without undue delay. The "no-special-fee" system has been designed to encourage the use of port reception facilities. This means that fees covering the cost of the reception, handling and final disposal of ship-generated wastes are included in the harbour fee or otherwise charged to the ship, irrespective of whether any wastes are actually delivered.
Estimated nutrient load from waste waters originating from ships in the Baltic Sea area, updated 2009 (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland)
Manual on prosecuting environmental crime in the Baltic Sea Region (The Network of Prosecutors on Environmental Crime, ENPRO)