HELCOM unveils what's in store for the Baltic Sea moving forward

Mar 19 2018

HELCOM unveils what's in store for the Baltic Sea moving forward

The HELCOM released a comprehensive report summing up maritime activities in the Baltic Sea. Large part of the report has been dedicated to maritime traffic in the region. The report comes on the heels of HELCOM agreeing on the next steps for a healthy Baltic Sea during a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on March 6th, 2018.

Ministers of the Environment and various high-level representatives of nine Baltic coastal countries and the European Union reached an agreement that includes an update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan, as well as the intensification of efforts leading to accomplishing the goals of the existing Plan. They also adopted the HELCOM Brussels Ministerial Declaration.

Update to the Plan, which is to be fulfilled by 2021, presents a range of new measures paramount to its success. Combating eutrophiaction and the spreading of hazardous substances, environmetally conscious approach to maritime activities and conservation of the Baltic Sea's biodiversity are among said measures.

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, said:

"The Baltic Sea Region is leading the way with marine protected areas now covering more than 12% of the Sea. It has been designated as Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Emission Control Area. But we need to step up efforts to address other challenges such as eutrophication, marine litter and underwater noise. The Declaration adopted under EU Presidency by the HELCOM Ministers confirms the commitment by its members to work together to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea."

While the largely successful implementaion of various evnironmental regulation now in force in the Baltic Sea region is a reason for applause, one needs to keep in mind the cost at which compliance is achieved by the members of the maritime industry. Development of infrastructure, retrofitting of fleets and other investments mean that the competitiveness of the Baltic maritime industry needs to be taken into consideration when setting new goals.

Just three days after the meeting, on March 9th, 2018, HELCOM release the most comprehensive assessment of maritime activities in the Baltic Sea region currently available. With a strong focus on maritime traffic, the report highlights that some types of ship-based polution have already been effectively dealt with, including 90% reductions in both operational oil spills and sulphur oxide (SOx).

A range of recent decisions, most notably the requirement of 80% reduction of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions for new vessels built starting 2021, are set to carry the process even further. The decision to ban untreated sewage discharges by 2021 has also been mentioned in the report. It has to be noted that successfuly combating sewage from ships brings with it the need for specialized infrastructure in form of Port Reception Facilitites (PRF). A number of Baltic ports have already installed adequate facilities and many others are in the process of planning such facilities.

Bogdan Oldakowski, Secretary General of the Baltic Ports Organization (BPO), said:

"We are glad that ministries form Baltic countries have decided to work together for cleaner environment of the Baltic Sea and updated so called Baltic Sea Action Plan. The plan includes among others activities those specifically dedicated to maritime transport like to minimize air and sewage pollution from ships. Baltic ports are important actors in this process."

The Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) is the concrete roadmap for restoring the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea – by 2021. The updated BSAP defines new measures that are needed to achieve the existing goals: a Baltic Sea unaffected by eutrophication, a Baltic Sea with life undisturbed by hazardous substances, maritime activities carried out in an environmentally friendly way, and favourable conservation status of the Baltic Sea biodiversity.

Both the update to the Baltic Sea Action Plan and the report are a testament to exemplary cooperation between various stakeholders involved in the well-being and development of the maritime sector in the Baltic Sea region. As a member of the HELCOM Maritime Working Group, the BPO welcomes the fact that efforts of the parties involved in improving the environmental conditions of the Baltic Sea region are showing results.

For more information: http://helcom.fi/