In 2010 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) took a welcome decision to ban the discharge of sewage from cruise and passenger ships in the Baltic Sea – with the requirement that it would only go into effect once adequate port reception facilities were made available.
After some entanglements and resistance, WWF is delighted that this critical regulation to protect the Baltic Sea from the needless discharge of sewage from passenger ships has now been agreed. This is a clear victory for people and nature across the Baltic Sea and we remain committed to work with all stakeholders to ensure its effective implementation.
The regulations will enter into force in 2019 for new passenger ships and in 2021 for existing passenger ships. The prohibition will be applicable in the Baltic Sea area, with some exceptions within areas of the Russian Federation, which will not enter into force until 2023.
Instead of discharging sewage to the Baltic Sea, passenger ships can already either pump sewage water into the receiving stations that currently exist in all major ports, or treat this on board. While some ships do provide some treatment prior to discharge, the treatment processes used in most cases does not effectively reduce nutrient discharges (at least 70% reduction in nitrogen and 80% reduction in phosphorus) which means that these discharges continue to contribute to the problem of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea.
The dumping of ship sewage is a highly symbolic question for people around the region. The cruise and passenger industry are seen to be profiting from tourism to the region while at the same time, through the dumping of sewage, contributing to a problem which negatively affects the very environment which is attracting these visitors.