Helsinki Commission plans oil pollution action

Ten-year review of Baltic Sea oil spills, traffic inventory, will lead to additional precautionary measures

New measures are needed to protect the Baltic Sea from oil spills, a meeting of the multilateral body set up to protect the region has decided. Meeting last month in Brussels, the Helsinki Commission's sea-based pollution group prepared the ground for additional precautionary measures to be approved by the end of 2002.

Citing projections that the volume of oil transported annually in the Baltic will reach twice its 1995 level some time between 2005 and 2010, the group concluded that "the probability of oil spills" will rise "almost linearly" unless additional preventive measures are taken. Such measures could include traffic separation schemes or escort towing requirements and they would be designed to complement international measures to improve ship safety, such as the proposed acceleration of a global phase-out of single hull oil tankers (ENDS Daily 6 October 2000).

A Helsinki Commission spokesperson told ENDS Daily that the full range of options had yet to be spelled out, but that some measures might require negotiation at international level, through the International Maritime Organisation. The Commission's decisions on which measures to adopt will be informed by new data, including maps showing the location of oil spills over the past ten years. The first such maps were presented to the meeting and will be updated annually. Also in the works is an inventory of all shipping traffic in the Baltic, due to be completed within the coming months.

The group was also presented with stark evidence of the importance of the EU succeeding in its bid to bring forward the date for a global ban on single-hulled oil tankers, said the spokesperson. Analysis of the type of ships involved in oil spills in the Baltic over the past ten years showed that 75% of oil spilled came from single-hulled tankers while only 15% came from double hull tankers.

Follow Up:
Helsinki Commission, tel: +358 9 62 20 22 35.

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