Baltic port waste rules fail to stop pollution

Monitoring operation finds "alarming" number of oil slicks along shipping lanes

A recently introduced system under which ports in the Baltic Sea cannot charge visiting ships extra for dealing with their wastes has failed to stop large numbers of ships from discharging oil at sea, it has emerged. Aerial monitoring carried out this week by planes from Finland, Sweden, Poland and Latvia found nine oil slicks of up to 8km in length along 800km of Baltic shipping lanes.

The "no-special fee" system, under which ship waste management costs are integrated into general port charges, was introduced recently by members of Helcom, the Baltic Sea environmental protection convention (ENDS Daily 20 October 1999). It is designed to eliminate any economic incentive for ships to illegally clean out tanks while at sea. The EU recently agreed its own directive on port waste management, rejecting the no-special fee system only after long argument (ENDS Daily 12 July).

The number of oil slicks discovered in this week's Baltic monitoring exercise was "alarming," according to Kalervo Jolma of the Finnish Environment Institute, which participated in the exercise. "This indicates that many thousands of such slicks are still routinely released in the Baltic every year," he said.

"No ships were caught red-handed discharging oil," Mr Jolma told ENDS Daily. "A fresh 8km-long discharge was spotted by the Polish surveillance aircraft off the north-west coast of Estonia just 3 hours after the Finnish plane had cleared the area, but there were too many ships in the area for the culprits to be fingered."

Follow Up:
Finnish environment institute, tel: +358 9 40 30 07 03; Helcom, and text of the recommendation introducing the no-special fee system.

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