Shipping as a source of eutrophication

Nutrients enter into the Baltic Sea from many different sources apart from agricultural run-off. These sources include:

  • Waste water from inefficient treatment plants
  • Waste water from households without any treatment at all
  • Waste water from shipping without sufficient (or any) treatment
  • Traffic emitting nitrous oxides that are carried by air and deposited into the Baltic Sea
  • Nitrous oxides from shipping
  • Other combustion sources such as industry, heating and power production

Ship’s waste – a needless source of nutrients

Every year, particularly during the summer, Baltic Sea cruise ships and ferry boats carrying thousands of passengers, discharge tons of waste containing nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, directly into the sea. Waste from ships also carries bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, as well as detergents and heavy metals.  

As shipping activity is expected to increase on the Baltic Sea in coming years, curbing the amount of waste — and its negative impact on the fragile marine environment — is more urgent than ever.

WWF is working to reduce such nutrient inflows from source, calling on shipping vessels operating in the Baltic Sea to halt the widespread practice of dumping polluted waste water into the sea, and to certify that waste is either properly treated on board or disposed at onshore facilities.

WWF, together with responsible shipping companies, believes that immediate actions are needed to protect and restore the unique biodiversity of the Baltic Sea.

A list of companies committing to a voluntary ban on waste water discharge at sea can be found here.
 / ©: Ulf Bohman
Waste water released from cruise ships and other vessels discharge hundreds of tons of nitrogen and phosphorus into the Baltic each year, contributing to large-scale toxic algae blooms and a reduction of water quality.
© Ulf Bohman

Key contact

For more information on the campaign to ban waste water discharges from ships, contact: 

Anita Mäkinen, Head of Marine Programme
WWF-Finland
Tel. +358 9 7740 1034
E-mail: anita.makinen@wwf.fi

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