Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

 

Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

A new multi-regional manual for the response to maritime pollution incidents in the Baltic, Greater North Sea and Mediterranean gets jointly published by HELCOM and its partners

A multi-regional manual for the response to maritime pollution incidents involving hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) was recently jointly developed by the Bonn AgreementHELCOM and REMPEC

The new Marine HNS Response Manual – Multi-regional Bonn Agreement, HELCOM, REMPEC offers a comprehensive operational guidance for first responders and decision makers on marine incidents involving HNS. It also replaces the HELCOM Response Manual Volume 2, as agreed by the Helsinki Commission during its latest meeting in March 2021 (HELCOM 42-2021).

The guidance includes specific annexes for the Mediterranean, Baltic and Greater North Sea. The decision to develop the manual was taken during the Thirteenth Inter-Secretariat Meeting between Regional Agreement Secretariats, DG ECHO and EMSA that was held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2017. 

The HNS manual was developed under the Western Mediterranean Region Marine Oil and HNS Pollution Cooperation(West MOPoCo) project in collaboration with the Bonn Agreement, HELCOM and REMPEC. Financed by the European Union’s DG ECHO, the project was further supported by CedreISPRA and ITOPF.

The manual was also presented during the closure event of the West MOPOCO project that was held online on 14 April 2021. West MoPoCo supports Algeria, France, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia, in collaboration with Monaco, in their cooperation on oil spills and HNS marine pollution. The project was supported by HELCOM.

HELCOM updates its online tool for assessing the risk of introduction of alien species via ballast water

Aliens in the Baltic Sea? Not if shipping managers utilize the free online tool developed by HELCOM and OSPAR to minimise the introduction of non-indigenous species (NIS, also known as alien species) via the ballast water of ships. The tool has recently been updated as part of the Interreg COMPLETE project

“The updated tool now makes it even easier to evaluate the risk of introduction of alien species by ships traveling between two ports in the HELCOM-OSPAR area,” said Manuel Sala-Pérez, the COMPLETE project’s coordinator at HELCOM.  

Alien species often travel with ballast water in ships, being sucked up into ships in one port and then discarded in another where they could potentially proliferate, take over habitats and disrupt the food chain and existing biodiversity. “For fragile marine ecosystems such as the Baltic Sea, NIS can be a serious issue,” cautioned Sala-Pérez. 

The free online tool, the so-called Ballast Water Exemptions Decision Support Tool, assesses the risk of introduction of NIS in a simple way, yet based on the latest scientific knowledge on the occurrence and distribution of species as well as the environmental characteristics of each port. 

“The online tool is now more user-friendly and contains improved GIS functionalities and data visualisations,” said Sala-Pérez, adding that it also includes updates to the underlying technology such as databases and algorithms. “It should be the go-to tool for whoever is dealing with ballast water management in the Baltic and North Seas.”  

COMPLETE is an EU INTERREG Baltic Sea Region project aimed at minimizing the introduction and spread of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens by shipping, notably via ballast water and biofouling. In the project, HELCOM led the activity tasked with updating the NIS online tool. 

HELCOM further took part in the development of a proposal for a Baltic Sea Biofouling Roadmap and a HELCOM monitoring programme on NIS. It also participated in the review process of the HELCOM-OSPAR Joint Harmonised Procedure on ballast water exemptions, particularly on risk assessments of NIS introductions, and the update of the selection criteria for target species.

Handling of wastewater from ships in ports of the Baltic Sea is facilitated by new guidance

The handling of wastewater from ships in ports of the Baltic Sea just got easier with the newly published Technical Guidance for the handling of wastewater in Ports of the Baltic Sea Special Area under MARPOL Annex IV.

Intended for shipowners, port operators, local administrations as well as municipal wastewater companies, the Technical Guidance was developed to facilitate the management of wastewater from ships to better comply with IMO regulations on wastewater handling in the Baltic Sea region. 

In 2011, the IMO designated the Baltic Sea a Special Area for sewage discharges from passenger ships, directing passenger ships operating in the Baltic Sea and not equipped with an on-board sewage treatment facility to discharge their sewage – or black water – at port, in a so-called port reception facility (PRF). 

“Initial experiences show that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution,” said Susanne Heitmüller, the Chair of HELCOM Maritime, the HELCOM working group that deals with shipping-related topics. “Almost each port, with its own, specific infrastructure requirements, needs a tailored solution,” she added.

The current lack of experience with sewage handling in ports requires the development of new and innovative approaches to manage these new challenges. The Technical Guidance for the handling of wastewater in ports was produced to fill this gap and offer a wide range of possible options to several scenarios ships and ports may face. 

“The Technical Guidance sets out probable problems a port may encounter, and presents possible solutions on the different aspects of the management of wastewater from ships,” said Heitmüller.

Under the IMO regulations, all newly built passenger ships after June 2019 are required to comply to stricter rules on wastewater discharges, while older passenger ships will have to comply to the same rules by June 2021, with some exceptions until June 2023 for ships en route directly to or from a port located outside the Baltic Sea and to or from a port located east of longitude 28˚10′ E.

According to the rules, passenger ships which carry more than 12 passengers will have to either discharge sewage into port reception facilities, or alternatively at sea – provided that nutrients have been reduced by 70% for nitrogen and 80% for phosphorus through on-board treatment. 

Untreated wastewater has been identified as an important source of both hazardous substances and nutrients, the main cause of eutrophication leading to unwanted growth of blue-green algae that upset the Baltic Sea’s biodiversity.

Published by HELCOM, the Technical Guidance was developed by the Development and Assessment Institute in Waste Water Technology at RWTH Aachen University (PIA) on behalf of the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany (BSH) and in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI).

BSAP update is a top priority for the HELCOM group on maritime matters

EMSA 1.jpeg
MARITIME 19-2019 met at the EMSA premises in Lisbon. Photo: HELCOM

With an entire day dedicated to its discussion, the update of the Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP) was the driving theme of the 19th Meeting of the HELCOM Maritime Working Group (MARITIME 19-2019) that was held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 23 to 26 September 2019.

The BSAP is scheduled to be updated in 2021 and currently contains a set of objectives on maritime activities under the main goal of achieving “Environmentally friendly maritime activities.”

On the sea-based objectives, actions are expected to also touch upon activities beyond shipping such as loss and disturbance of the seabed, fisheries and dredging. Pressing issues such as non-indigenous species, underwater noise, wastewater management and emissions from ships are also expected to prominently feature in the update.

To better accompany the BSAP’s update process, MARITIME 19-2019 agreed to set up a Correspondence Group that will begin its work in the course of autumn 2019. The group will reflect on existing actions and review proposals on new actions for the BSAP.

In addition to the BSAP, issues pertaining to ballast water and biofouling, emissions, waste, port reception facilities (PRF), and accidents were also discussed in Lisbon.

Furthermore, Maja Markovčić Kostelac, Executive Director of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), who opened the meeting, emphasized the longstanding cooperation between EMSA and HELCOM, particularly highlighting the planned use of EMCIP data in the annual HELCOM reports on ship accidents in the Baltic Sea.

Anna Petersson, Sweden, who stepped down as Chair of the HELCOM Maritime Group, was thanked for her long-term dedication and excellent guidance from 2014 to 2019. She is followed by Susanne Heitmüller, Germany, who was elected along with the re-election of Vice-Chairs Natalia Kutaeva, Russia and Jorma Kämäräinen, Finland.

Hosted by the European Union, at the premises of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in Lisbon, MARITIME 19-2019 was attended by all HELCOM Contracting Parties except for Lithuania, as well as by observers from the Baltic Pilotage Authorities Commission (BPAC), Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Europe and the European Boating Association (EBA).

Read the MARITIME 19-2019 outcomes

HELCOM publishes its report on aerial surveillance of discharges at sea in 2018

aerial_surveillance_2018.jpg

HELCOM recently published its report on aerial surveillance of discharges at sea in 2018, confirming the trend of reduction of spills in the Baltic Sea, especially mineral oils.

Despite 62 spills observed in 2018 being slightly higher than last year – with 52 incidents, the lowest on record – overall trends are pointing towards a steady decrease. Aerial surveillance of spills started almost thirty years ago in 1989, when 763 pollution occurrences were detected.

“Coupled to the AIS system that is in place in the Baltic Sea and that monitors movements of ships as well as cleaner shipping practices, aerial surveillance has proven to be an effective deterrent for illegal discharges at sea,” said Markus Helavuori, the HELCOM Professional Secretary for maritime affairs.

In 2018, mineral oil accounted for less than half of all detected spills. The majority of detections were classified as “other” and “unknown” substances, consisting for instance of chemicals, hazardous substances, vegetable oils or greywaters from ships – such as from showers and kitchens.

“The lack of appropriate sensor systems available to identify such spills by aerial surveillance are still of concern, as some of these substances may pose a threat to the marine environment,” said Helavuori.

Currently coordinated by the HELCOM Informal Working Group on Aerial Surveillance (IWGAS), surveillance of spills started in 1989 to detect spills of mineral oil. Since 2014, spills of other and unknown substances have been added to the reporting.

Through the Helsinki Convention (Article 14, Annex VII, Regulation 7), the HELCOM members – the nine Baltic countries and the European Union – have agreed to monitor pollution incidents and spills, making “necessary assessments of the situation and [taking] adequate response action in order to avoid or minimize subsequent pollution effects.”

The HELCOM Recommendation 34E/4 further advises to monitor the whole of the Baltic Sea area with regular airborne surveillance, to develop and improve the existing remote sensing systems, and to coordinate surveillance activities which take place outside territorial waters.

HELCOM sails through shipping-heavy week

hanse-sail-4418439_1920.jpg

Early September was shipping-intensive, with HELCOM participating in three events on maritime activities in Sweden.

HELCOM first promoted cleaner shipping at the Donsö Shipping Meet (DSM19), a biennial gathering of private sector and other stakeholders on shipping technologies where delegates from all over the world met on the Swedish island of Donsö from 3 to 4 September 2019.

HELCOM attended the DSM19 together with the Clean Shipping Project Platform (CSHIPP) that brings together projects and organisations to thrust ahead clean shipping in the Baltic Sea region. The objective of CSHIPP is to increase the impact of and connect the dots between the several Baltic Sea projects on clean shipping.

Also on Donsö, green fuel technology and cleaner shipping was on the agenda of the HELCOM Green Team meeting on 4 September 2019. HELCOM Green Team promotes public and private co-operation at national and Baltic Sea levels to enhance development and uptake of green technology and alternative fuels in shipping.

To better understand the main barriers hindering the adoption of green shipping technologies and alternative fuels in the Baltic Sea, Green Team earlier established a reporting mechanism that was reviewed during the meeting and which highlighted alternative fuels infrastructure, biofuels, financing and onshore power supply as particular challenges.

Last but not least, HELCOM participated in the Shipping and the Environment II conference in Gothenburg, Sweden from 4 to 6 September, where HELCOM held a policy workshop on the future needs on clean shipping in the Baltic Sea region. The results of discussions – notably about onshore power, use of scrubbers and biofouling – are intended to be presented to Maritime, the HELCOM working group dealing with shipping-related matters.

The conference also focussed on policies and strategies for a more environmentally sustainable shipping sector taking into account climate change, good air quality in coastal regions as well as good environmental status of marine and coastal land ecosystems in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Shipping is a major action area for HELCOM, with particular emphasis on safe navigation and environmentally friendly and sustainable maritime activities. HELCOM heavily focusses on reducing maritime pollution through providing guidance on issues such as ballast water, sewage from ships and emissions.

Routeing and safety of navigation in the Baltic Sea is another key HELCOM area, which will be addressed during the Group of Experts on Safety of Navigation (SAFENAV) group scheduled in Stockholm on 19 September 2019 as well as during the meeting of the Maritime Working Group to be held in Lisbon from 23 to 26 September 2019.

Furthermore, to prepare for accidental spills of oil and chemicals, the BALEX DELTA exercises are conducted every year by HELCOM members. This year, the exercises took place in Bornholm, Denmark.

​BALEX DELTA 2018 final report looks into one of the world's largest exercises on response to oil and chemical spills at sea

 With the now publicly available, insight is given into one of the world’s largest response exercises at sea dealing with oil and chemical spills that took place earlier in 2018 in Swedish waters .According to the report, the confirmed the ability of the Baltic Sea countries to carry out a joint maritime response operation of large scope and dealing with maritime incidents of high complexity.The BALEX DELTA 2018 was particularly challenging, testing capabilities such as chemical diving, night-time oil recovery operations directed by a reconnaissance aircraft, and vessel-to-vessel lightering. It was the largest exercise ever held in the Baltic Sea, mobilizing 18 maritime vessels and about 500 personnel from eight countries and the EU.The findings of the report may also be used to develop proposals to update the , as well as providing recommendations for the design of future exercises.The HELCOM Manual is recommended to be used as guidance when two or more – all Baltic Sea countries and the EU – participate in a joint action responding to spillages of oil and other harmful substances such as chemicals.Held every year since 1989, the BALEX DELTA exercises are conducted under the framework of the  that calls for its signatories – all Baltic Sea nations – to have the necessary operational capacity and skills to respond to any maritime incident at sea and affecting the shore.The BALEX DELTA 2018 edition was held off the coast of Karlskrona, Sweden in August 2018. It simulated a  in harsh weather, with chemicals and oil leaking into the sea and reaching the shore.The final evolution report was written by the Swedish Defence Research agency (FOI). It was published ahead of the final conference on lessons learnt of the exercise that was held in Helsinki earlier in April.BALEX DELTA 2018 was supported by funds from the European Union through its .The next BALEX DELTA edition will be hosted by Denmark in 2019, under the lead of the Defence Command of Denmark. It will also mark the 30-year anniversary of the exercises. 

With the Main Exercise Evaluation report on the BALEX DELTA 2018 exercise now publicly available, insight is given into one of the world’s largest response exercises at sea dealing with oil and chemical spills.

At Interreg conference, HELCOM talks policy making, nutrient recycling and clean shipping

HELCOM shared its views on environmental policy making, nutrient recycling and clean shipping at the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme Conference that was held in Lübeck from 9 to 10 April 2019.Under the theme of , the conference presented the current accomplishments of the Interreg programme’s platforms and projects currently operating in the Baltic Sea region.The Interreg platforms and projects provide valuable scientific and technical underpinnings for HELCOM work. They also facilitate cross-sectoral collaboration, linking HELCOM to the private sector, local authorities and other Baltic Sea stakeholders.The outcomes of the platforms and projects will notably feed the beyond 2021, support the elaboration of the Baltic Sea Regional Nutrient Recycling Strategy by 2020, and contribute to overall policy making at HELCOM.HELCOM is involved in three Interreg platforms where it leads work packages related to policy implementation of the findings:: platform on nutrient recycling, where HELCOM is leading the work package “Policy recommendations for sustainable nutrient management and recycling”: platform management of smart sludge, storm and waste water, manure and energy efficiency, where HELCOM is leading the work package “Facilitation of the regional policy dialog on sustainable water management”, focussing on developing regional policy recommendations on nutrient recycling and hazardous substances.: platform on clean shipping in the Baltic Sea region, where HELCOM is leading the work related to drafting policy recommendations from the outputs of the different projects involved in the platform as well as developing an online dissemination tool to share information related to shipping in the BSRThe Interreg platforms group several Interreg projects with similar topics and objectives. Based on wider scope than the individual projects, the aim of the platforms is to facilitate the development of joint policy recommendations.In addition to the three platforms, HELCOM is also involved in seven Interreg projects.  The has four priorities, namely “Capacity for Innovation”, “Management of natural resources”, “Sustainable transport”, and “EU Strategy support”. Funded by the European Union, the programme backs integrated territorial development and cooperation, and is an agreement between EU member states Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and the northern parts of Germany, as well as partner countries Norway, Belarus and the northwest regions of Russia.Over 300 participants from all around the Baltic Sea and beyond attended the conference that was held in Lübeck, Germany.

HELCOM shared its views on environmental policy making, nutrient recycling and clean shipping at the Interreg Baltic Sea Region Programme Conference that was held in Lübeck from 9 to 10 April 2019.

HELCOM publishes report on alternative fuels for shipping in the Baltic Sea region

HELCOM in April 2019 published its “” report, as part of the EnviSuM project that looks into clean shipping solutions from both a technical and socio-economic viewpoint.The objective of the report is to provide an overview of the recent developments on alternative fuels in the Baltic Sea, with the focus on liquefied natural gas (LNG). The particular attention on LNG also allows to highlight long-term trends on the adoption of cleaner shipping practices by Baltic Sea countries. With new IMO regulations on sulphur exhaust emissions in place, ship owners have to implement new technology to meet the current requirements, such as scrubber system to “wash” the sulphur from the exhaust gas, shift to low-sulphur marine gas oil (MGO), or switch to alternative types of fuels altogether.Since 2015, all the ships navigating the – comprised of Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel – are obliged to comply with the limit of maximum sulphur content of 0.1% in ship fuels. This is five years ahead of the global entry into force of the sulphur regulation in 2020.The report on alternative fuels has been prepared as part of the (Environmental Impact of Low Emission Shipping: Measurements and Modelling Strategies). EnviSuM project addresses both present and future cost of cleaner shipping, as well as the health and environmental effects of ship emissions.In EnviSuM, HELCOM’s role is to provide a policy linkage to the project, to promote the project outcomes, and to facilitate the involvement of the competent authorities from the Baltic Sea region. 

HELCOM in April 2019 published its “Alternative fuels for shipping in the Baltic Sea region” report, as part of the EnviSuM project that looks into clean shipping solutions from both a technical and socio-economic viewpoint.

Aerial surveillance of spills and discharges at sea in the Baltic gets scrutinized at HELCOM meeting in Tallinn

IWGAS-2019 participants in front of the new Estonian surveillance plane in Tallinn on 21 March 2019. The plane is used to track both accidental spills and illegal discharges at sea. © HELCOMImproving surveillance of spills and discharges at sea was a main subject at the Annual Meeting of the HELCOM Informal Working Group on Aerial Surveillance (IWGAS 2019) that was held in Tallinn, Estonia from 20 to 21 March 2019.In Tallinn, the HELCOM members presented their respective national surveillance activities and finalised their work on the 2018 edition of the HELCOM Annual report on discharges observed during aerial surveillance in the Baltic Sea.To ensure a more efficient surveillance of the Baltic Sea, IWGAS 2019 notably agreed to update the coverage requirements of satellite imagery. Aerial surveillance is key for responding to discharges at sea of hazardous substances such as oil or chemicals, regardless of being accidental or intentional.“Aerial surveillance coupled to the Automatic Identification System (AIS) that tracks vessel movements is an efficient way to monitor illegal discharges at sea,” said Markus Helavuori, the HELCOM Professional Secretary in charge of maritime affairs, adding that “regular aerial surveillance can be very dissuasive.” At IWGAS 2019, Estonia also presented its new surveillance plane, a Beechcraft King Air B350ER that is in operation since July 2018.The meeting took place at the premises of the Ministry of the Interior of Estonia and of the Estonian Police and Border Guard Aviation Group.***For more information:Markus HelavuoriHELCOM Professional Secretary in charge of maritime affairsmarkus.helavuori@helcom.fi

Improving surveillance of spills and discharges at sea was a main subject at the Annual Meeting of the HELCOM Informal Working Group on Aerial Surveillance (IWGAS 2019) that was held in Tallinn, Estonia from 20 to 21 March 2019.