Since historic times the Baltic Sea has been an important route for maritime trade. During the last decades the number of ships sailing in the Baltic Sea and their sizes have continued to increase.
This shipping transports a major part of the goods our growing societies want and need. At the same time it creates operational environmental pressures in the form of airborne exhaust gas pollution, illegal discharges of oil, sewage from passenger ships as well as introductions of invasive alien organisms via ships’ ballast water or hulls.
Nutrient enrichment, or eutrophication, is an example of a specific environmental issue with a shipping dimension as nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from exhaust gases, but also sewage discharges, add up to other sources of Nitrogen and Phosphorus loads.
In addition, shipping accidents happen and may in the worst case scenario create an environmental disaster. Measures in the field of safety of navigation are needed to reduce accident risks.
HELCOM and IMO
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the global regulator of shipping. However, the implementation of many IMO regulations have their regional specificities. Such regional implementation as well as new initiatives on clean and safe shipping are discussed within the HELCOM MARITIME group.
The Baltic Sea area has been designated as a special area in accordance with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annexes I (oil), IV (sewage), V (garbage), and VI (for Sulphur). This means there are strict IMO restrictions on discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures, sewage from passenger ships and garbage.
In addition to rules emanating from IMO conventions, there are also certain shipping measures adopted by the Contracting Parties as part of the 1992 Helsinki Convention. These include the prohibition of incineration of ship-generated wastes in the Territorial Seas of the Baltic Sea States as well as 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 (TS and EEZ).