INTERTANKO comments on the new Thematic Assessment on Maritime Transportation in the Baltic Region

Earlier this week. INTERTANKO’s Environment Manager Tim Wilkins presented a paper at the HELCOM (Helsinki Commission) headquarters in Helsinki commenting on the new Thematic Assessment on Maritime Transportation in the Baltic Region. The Thematic Assessment is part of a larger Baltic Sea Action Plan which focuses on all the key environmental concerns facing the region: eutrophication (whereby pollution causes water to become overrich in nutrients and ultimately de-oxygenated), hazardous substances, biodiversity and climate change. 

HELCOM’s Thematic Assessment for Maritime Transportation focuses on four key areas:


  1. safety of navigation and response to accidents;
  2. ship-generated waste discharges;
  3. air emissions from shipping;
  4. preventing the introduction of alien species through ships’ ballast water.  

Each category is broken down into the goals, indicators (which would be used to assess the effectiveness of the proposed action items) and actions that would form the basis of an action plan on maritime shipping. This was described as the ecosystem-based approach, including HELCOM’s focus on an holistic way of managing human activities in the region.  

While broadly supporting the goals and actions suggested in the Thematic Assessment, Wilkins drew attention to the problem of using quantitative indicators, and to concern that they may be used as a basis for future action items. By way of an example, recent illegal discharge figures for oil reported some 508 discharges of less than one cubic metre in size. Basing a possible action item on a broad international shipping statistic may not make sense until additional information on the possible source of such a high frequency of small spills can be determined.  

INTERTANKO has proposed continued efforts to improve the adequacy, as opposed to availability, of waste reception facilities in the region and further suggested that an independent assessment of the region’s facilities should be undertaken. Wilkins explained that this type of assessment would be useful in determining the adequacy as well as providing recommendations on methods for improving the facilities. 

Wilkins conveyed the message that while regional initiatives are indeed needed to protect the special type of environment in the Baltic Sea, full consideration should be given to the international nature of tanker shipping and the need to maintain an international approach when proposing any new recommendations. He drew attention to the parallel work on allthe Thematic Assessment issues (air emissions, ballast water management etc.) being undertaken by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and emphasised the need for the HELCOM member states to ratify the international conventions. 

Contact: Tim Wilkins