Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


​Sub-regional risk of spill of oil and hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea (BRISK)​, 2009-2012

BRISK logo

Since the signature of the Helsinki Convention of 1974 the coastal countries of the Baltic Sea have within the HELCOM Response Group developed a high level of regional preparedness to pollution incidents. However, the trend of more traffic — and more oil transported at sea — leads to higher risks of spills of oil and hazardous substances, thus posing the risk of environmental damage. An increase in oil spills always means higher costs for the countries involved in the response actions both during and after a spill.

This is why all the Baltic Sea countries, on an initiative by the Response Group, conducted during 2009–2012 a comprehensive joint risk assessment through the BRISK project.

Based on the best available knowledge the project defined new measures to strengthen the preparedness and response both for the whole Baltic region and in specific sub-areas. The overall aim of the project was to increase the preparedness of all Baltic Sea countries to respond to major spills of oil and hazardous substances from shipping.

​Based on the existing data on maritime traffic for the entire Baltic Sea and estimated risks of different accident and spill scenarios, the project calculated risks for different types of accidents and spill sizes. The project translated these scenarios into maps that define high risk areas in the region.

​Key outcomes and recommendations

  • ​For the first time the entire Baltic Sea has been mapped with common methodology for risks of spills of oil and hazardous substances.
  • Likely volumes of spilled oil, amount of oil on coast and the resulting environmental damage have been estimated for the Baltic Sea and its sub-regions.
  • The efficiency of potential measures to reduce these risks has been estimated through scenarios.
  • Sub-regionally differentiated response measures have been identified as essential to increase preparedness in the Baltic Sea.
  • Sub-regional response agreements are thus recommended to further develop overall preparedness in the Baltic Sea region.
  • Two sub-regional agreements on joint response operations have been developed and signed between Russia (Kaliningrad) and Poland, and between Russia (Kaliningrad) and Lithuania as a result of the project.
  • Three more sub-regional agreements have been modified or prepared based on project recommendations and are close to being concluded.
  • Some investments are recommended to further enhance preparedness in the Baltic Sea, including:
    • A Vessel Traffic System (VTS) for the entire tanker route between Skaw and Primorsk/Ust Luga, building on the existing systems in the Great Belt and the Gulf of Finland;
    • Night vision equipment development and deployment as a highly efficient measure in all areas;
    • Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS) as a cost-effi cient means to enhance safety of navigation;
    • Double-hulls in small tankers and bunker tanks in new vessels to decrease spills outside the main tanker route, including the Gulf of Bothnia and the South-Eastern Baltic Proper;
    • Increasing recovery capacity in ice conditions, especially in the Gulf of Bothnia;
    • Shallow water response capacity as an efficient measure in all areas.

​BRISK was initiated and implemented by the national authorities responsible for oil spill preparedness around the Baltic Sea as well as the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), meeting regularly within the Response Group. 

The countries and partners involved in the projects covered all nine coastal countries of the Baltic Sea:​
Denmark (Admiral Danish Fleet Headquarters, Lead Partner)
Sweden (Swedish Coast Guard Headquarters)
Finland (Finnish Environment Institute)
Estonia (Estonian Board of Border Guard)
Lithuania (Coastal Research and Planning Institute)
Latvia (Marine and Inland Waters Administration of the Ministry of the Environment)
Poland (Maritime Institute in Gdansk & Maritime Offi ce in Gdynia)
Germany (Central Command for Maritime Emergencies)

Russia was involved through a consortium of partners in a specific BRISK-RU project where the Central Marine Research & Design Institute Ltd acted as a Lead Partner.

The BRISK project was partly financed by EU´s Baltic Sea Regional Programme 2007–2013 with 3.3 million EUR for the period 2009–2012. The co-financing varies between 15 per cent and 25 per cent, depending on the home country of the Project Partner. The BRISK-RU project was financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers Aquatic Ecosystems working group with 200,000 EUR. The Information office of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Kaliningrad served as a facilitator in the preliminary discussions of the project and as a contact point for Russian partners.​