INTERTANKO participates at HELCOM conference on Baltic Sea Action Plan

At its headquarters in Helsinki earlier this week, the Helsinki Convention's Baltic Marine Environment Protection Committee (HELCOM) held its second stakeholder conference on the Baltic Sea Action plan. At the opening conference in 2006 INTERTANKO had presented its views on the thematic strategy for the Baltic Sea, and it participated at this follow-up meeting, which provided an opportunity to discuss the progress of the action plan. 


While there are four main elements in the action plan, including eutrophication (caused by the increase in an ecosystem of chemical nutrients, typically compounds containing nitrogen or phosphorus), pollution by hazardous chemicals and biodiversity, it was the strategy for maritime activity on which INTERTANKO had previously given its views. However, it was clear from the beginning that much of the options available to minimise accidents and reduce operational discharges in the Baltic Sea area can be, and are being, covered by existing international conventions by way of the IMO.


Alexey Kliavin, Director of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, explained that in the last five years the region has seen an increase in escort tugs, the establishment of industry pilotage schemes, the implementation of the Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) requirements and a new traffic separation scheme. All aspects have assisted in improving the region's pollution risk with an increasing oil tanker trade.  


There was also recognition that the coastal states still needed to ratify many of the IMO's environmental conventions, namely the Ballast Water Convention and the Anti-fouling Systems Convention. 


However, there was still room for improvement, and two areas stood out as needing attention. There still remains a significant level of concern about illegal operational discharges as well as legal discharges. In the latter case, this related primarily to sewage discharges and shipping's contribution to eutrophication in the sea. Combined with the continued concern about oil discharges, attention was once again drawn to the need for adequate waste reception facilities.


The second area for improvement was that of air emissions from shipping. The Baltic states still appear to be concerned that nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from shipping will remain too high, even with the implementation of Annex VI. A recommendation was made to HELCOM to consider a more active participation in the IMO's revision of Annex VI, with one commenter noting that focus should now turn to improving the quality of fuel in the shipping industry. 


Contact: Tim Wilkins