Ship sewage banned in Baltic Sea



Posted on 01 October 2010  | 
Ship sewage will no longer be allowed to foul the Baltic Sea.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) on Friday agreed to ban the discharge of sewage from passenger ships and ferries in the Baltic Sea.

The decision comes after a three year WWF campaign to stop the dumping of waste water in the Baltic Sea.

WWF has since 2007 worked hard to convince governments and the shipping industry to ban the discharge of waste water straight into the Baltic Sea. The organization had already succeeded in receiving voluntary commitments from many passenger ferry lines and cruise companies that traffic the Baltic Sea.

Friday's decision will make the dumping of waste water illegal starting in 2013 for all new ships, and from 2018 for all ships, when sufficient port reception facilities are available. A special IMO working group will develop criteria for "adequate port reception facilities".

"This is an important milestone for the Baltic Sea", says Mattias Rust, WWF's representative at the IMO meeting. "The responsibility now lies heavy on the Baltic Sea countries and their ports to provide the necessary port facilities."

Last week, the worlds shipping nations met at the IMO in London to discuss environmental issues. In a joint submission from all the Baltic Sea states, the IMO was asked to “ban discharge of sewage from passenger ships and ferries in the Baltic Sea unless it has been sufficiently treated to remove nutrients or delivered to port reception facilities”. The resolution was finally passed today.

In total, the Baltic Sea receives more than 350 cruise ship visits with over 2,100 port calls each year and the numbers are rapidly growing. The waste-water produced in these vessels is estimated to contain 113 tons of nitrogen and 38 tons of phosphorus, Most of this sewage is today discharged into the Baltic Sea, adding to the eutrophication of the sea. In addition to excess nutrients, the waste water also contains bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, as well as heavy metals.

Eutrophication is considered the main environmental problem of the Baltic Sea, causing both biological and economic damage to marine environment and coastal areas. It is caused by an overload of nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, into the ecosystem. Eutrophication causes many problems, including unusually strong and frequent summertime algae blooms, including blooms of toxic cyanobacteria.



Ferries and cruise ships operating in the Baltic Sea carry approximately 80 million passengers each year. The waste water produced in these vessels is currently estimated to contain 460 tons of nitrogen and 150 tons of phosphorus, substances that add to the eutrophication of the sea.
© © WWF Finland/ Antii Siponen Enlarge

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