New Baltic Sea wastewater handling guidance published

Feb 19 2020

New Baltic Sea wastewater handling guidance published

The document, published by HELCOM and intended for shipowners, port operators, local administrations, as well as municipal wastewater companies, is aimed at streamlining the management of wastewater from ships and better compliance with IMO regulations on wastewater handling, currently in force in the Baltic Sea region.

According to Dr Susanne Heimüller, Chair of the HELCOM Maritime Working Group, the guidance will allow to identify potential problems a port may encounter with handling big volumes of sewage and offer possible solutions. These can vary in nature and can be related to infrastructure, technology or planning and communications.

The difficulty in finding said solutions is heightened due to the fact, that as of this moment no “one size fits all” fix exists. Most ports need an individual approach based on their own, specific requirements. Ideally, the Guidance will improve the understanding of the various challenges related to wastewater management, faced by all involved parties, e.g. ports and shipowners.

As a Member of the HELCOM Maritime Working Group and the Cooperation Platform on Port Reception Facilities (PRF), the Baltic Ports Organization remains highly involved in the discussion surrounding the obligatory delivery of sewage from passenger ships. Especially considering the Baltic Sea region’s unofficial status as a testing ground for various environmental regulations in the past.

Bogdan Oldakowski, Secretary General, BPO, offered the following comment: “We are very glad that HELCOM took the initiative to prepare wastewater handling guidance, addressing a wide range of maritime industries. It is a valuable source of information on how to deal with sewage handling in ports and I am sure it will be used by the port community when deploying port reception facilities for sewage from passenger ships.”

In 2011, the Baltic Sea has been designated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) a Special Area for sewage discharges from passenger ships, which requires all such vessels operating in the area and not equipped with an on-board sewage treatment facility to discharge their waste at a port, in a special port reception facility (PRF).

Furthermore, under IMO’s regulations, all newly built passenger ships after June 2019 are subject to tighter wastewater discharge restrictions. Vessels already operational at that point in time will have to comply to these new, stricter rules, by June 2021.

These new regulations require ships carrying more than 12 passenger to either discharge their sewage in a PRF, or at sea, provided that nutrient levels have been reduced by 70% for nitrogen and 80% for phosphorus via on-board treatment.

The impact of untreated wastewater is an important source of both hazardous substances and nutrients and the main cause of eutrophication, leading to unwanted growth of blue-green algae, threatening Baltic Sea’s biodiversity. As such, it cannot be ignored.

The “Technical Guidance for the Handling of Wastewater in Ports of the Baltic Sea Special Area under MARPOL Annex IV” can be accessed directly on HELCOM’s website.