Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

Regular aerial surveillance reduces illegal discharges in the Baltic Sea

​HELCOM’s international aerial surveillance operation over the Northern Baltic Sea ended today at 17:00 (CET +2hrs), completed despite thick fog at night time, 27 hours after the start. This year’s Coordinated Extended Pollution Control Operation (CEPCO North) was organized by the Estonian Police and Border Guard and no oil spills or other discharges from ships were detected. “The operation involved four specially equipped aircraft from four countries – Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden. More support was provided by three participating vessels as well as through satellite surveillance from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).  The weather conditions had a major effect to the operation due to unpredictable fog, but nevertheless the overall cooperation went smoothly”, says Priit Pajusaar, CEPCO North 2014 coordinator and Police Captain from Estonian Police and Border Guard Board. Such high-intensity operations supplement the regular aerial control operations in the region which aim at creating a realistic picture of the level of compliance to the anti-pollution regulations in the Baltic area. The purpose is also to gather evidence of infringements and, if possible, to catch polluters red handed.  “Pollution surveillance has a substantial preventive effect on the illegal oil discharges. All HELCOM states should ensure sufficient support and funds for surveillance, in order to respect the HELCOM precautionary principle as well as the commitments of the Helsinki Convention through regular pollution control. Moreover, the persistent efforts of the HELCOM Response Group deserve credit for the decreasing trend not only in the number of oil discharges in the Baltic, but also in their volume,” says Harry Liiv,​​ Chair of HELCOM. Source: HELCOM. Click to enlargeSince the timing of the HELCOM CEPCOs is randomly selected, the operation is intense and strictly confidential until the entire operation is over, it reflects the realistic situation of discharges in the Baltic Sea.  CEPCO operations have several objectives, such as to survey continuously high density traffic areas with a high risk of illegal discharges; identify and catch the polluters; practise communication between aircraft, patrol vessels and the Command Centres involved; improve cooperation between countries; and exchange experiences between crews. * * *Note to Editors:HELCOM member states carry out several cross-border surveillance operations annually.  CEPCO flights (Mini CEPCO at least 12 hours; CEPCO at least 24 hours; Super CEPCO several days) contribute to the Baltic Sea marine protection according to HELCOM’s principles. The operation supports national aerial surveillance by detecting polluters who might not be otherwise identified. The intensity of CEPCOs enable a realistic estimation of the total number of oil spills over the Baltic Sea during a randomly selected time. In addition, helicopters, patrol vessels as well as the EMSA CleanSeaNet oil spill detection service enhance the coverage. In 2013, a total of 130 mineral oil spills were detected in the Baltic Sea during aerial surveillance, which is around the same as in the two previous years. The total estimated volume of detected discharges was lower than ever, with 11 m3. Alarmingly, the total hours of aerial surveillance in 2013 in the HELCOM area sank by 15 % from 2012. To reach the Baltic Sea Action Plan objective of no illegal spills in the Baltic Sea by 2021, there is a need for adequate surveillance also in the future by all HELCOM countries and especially as the number of observations of other harmful discharges than oil has increased. The Informal working group on aerial surveillance (), as part of the HELCOM RESPONSE cooperation is responsible for joint aerial surveillance as well as for co-ordination of the satellite based oil spill surveillance and evaluation of its results and operational effectiveness. Download here:  * * *, usually referred to as the Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), is an intergovernmental organisation of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. HELCOM is the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention. * * * For more information, please contact:Priit PajusaarPolice Captain, Chief System OperatorPolice and Border Guard BoardBorder Guard Department / Aviation GroupTel: +372 614 9247; +372 5047805E-mail: priit.pajusaar(at) Hermanni BackerProfessional SecretaryMaritime, Response and Maritime Spatial PlanningHELCOMTel:  +358 46 8509199E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)

HELCOM’s international operation over the Northern Baltic Sea ended today at 17:00hrs – no oil spills or other discharges from ships were detected.