National marine pollution response authorities from the Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union wrapped up yesterday the annual of the HELCOM on preparedness and response (HELCOM Response).The Meeting was hosted by EU Directorate General ECHO in Brussels, Belgium, and chaired by Ms. Heli Haapasaari, Finland, Chair of HELCOM Response.”It is important that the Response group reviews the performance requirements based on the changing maritime traffic amount and ship sizes. It is also delightful to hear that many Contracting Parties are in the process to acquire new vessels and other response equipment to enhance the regional response capacity”, says the Chair of Response, Heli Haapasaari.HELCOM is actively promoting that its Member States establish bi- or multilateral agreements with their neighbours in order to provide stronger cooperation between the neighbouring countries. At the moment, nine such local response agreements have been signed and ratified in the Baltic Sea area.The meeting divided the Baltic Sea into sub-regions for the purposes of response to pollution incidents. Such sub-divisions of the Baltic Sea will be used when defining marine pollution risks and for developing corresponding joint response capacity in areas with high risks of spills. The draft map of four Baltic response sub-regions will be further defined by the end of June and be the basis for definitions of minimum sub-regional response capacity during the coming year.The current Baltic set-up, based on HELCOM Recommendation (), builds on recommendations of a minimum national response capacity in each Baltic Sea coastal state taken alone. Currently the capacity is considered adequate if the capacity of responding to spills of 1,000-5,000 tons is in place within three days from the accident (Rec. ).The need to raise these target spill sizes has emerged with the increase in size of ships.Other topics on the agenda included exchange of Marine Pollution Report (POLREP) messages; revision of all three HELCOM Response manuals; drafting of response related indicators and well as follow up of Ministerial Meeting decisions. All the documents will be public after the Meeting.* * * Note for editors:The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental organization 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. Since 1974, HELCOM has been 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. works to ensure swift national and international response to maritime pollution incidents and that in case of an accident the right equipment is available and routines are in place to respond immediately in cooperation with neighbouring states. The Group also coordinates the aerial surveillance of maritime shipping routes to provide a complete picture of sea-based pollution around the Baltic, and to help identify suspected polluters. The meetings of the HELCOM Response Group have been held regularly among all Baltic Sea countries and EU for over thirty years.The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), formerly known as the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office, is the ‘s department for overseas and for . * * * For more information, please contact:Heli Haapasaari Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) Chair of HELCOM Response Group Tel: +358 40 1793050 E-mail: heli.haapasaari(at)environment.fiHermanni Backer Professional Secretary for Maritime, Response and Maritime Spatial Planning HELCOM Tel: +358 46 8509199 E-mail: hermanni.backer(at)helcom.fi
Sub-divisions of the Baltic Sea will be used when defining marine pollution risks and for developing corresponding joint response capacity in high-risk areas for spills.