In July 2011, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) designated the Baltic Sea as a special area for sewage from passenger ships. The decision entered into force on 1 January 2013.
Originally the special area status, referring to amendments in IMO MARPOL Annex IV, was planned to take effect on 1 January 2016 for new ships and 1 January 2018 for old, at the earliest. However, the dates have since - as of IMO meeting in April 2015 - been postponed to 2019 and 2021, respectively.
The effective application of this already existing legal status has been, according to the 2011 IMO decision, subject to the availability of adequate sewage Port Reception Facilities (PRF) in the region. This availability of adequate sewage PRF has to be separately notified to IMO MEPC by the coastal countries. All HELCOM countries have informed of such adequacy in December 2014.