Sensitive Baltic Sea areas now protected from shipping activities | WWF

Sensitive Baltic Sea areas now protected from shipping activities

Posted on 01 December 2005    
Dragsfard, Baltic Sea, Finland.
© WWF / Mauri Rautkari

London, UK – The Baltic Sea, as well as the Torres Straits, the Galapagos Islands and the Canary Islands, have officially been classified by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA).

A PSSA designation — which requires ships to take special care when navigating through areas of ecological, economic, cultural or scientific significance — can be used to protect a variety of marine and coastal habitats.

After adopting several associated protected measures (APM) at a recent meeting of the IMO, two areas within Sweden's territorial waters — Hoburgs Bank and Norra Midsjöbanken — will now be "areas to be avoided", especially by shipping activities, in order to protect this part of the Baltic Sea.

"WWF has been promoting the need for a Baltic Sea PSSA for years and is pleased that it is now final," said Lasse Gustavsson, Director of WWF’s Baltic Ecoregion Action Programme. "The decision demonstrates that the Baltic is among some of the most sensitive seas in the world."

The Baltic Sea has some of the busiest maritime traffic in the world. Large number of islands, narrow straits and routes that are difficult to navigate, and long annual periods of ice cover greatly increase the risk of a devastating oil accident in the Baltic Sea. Several protected areas, such as Baltic Sea Protected Areas (BSPA), Natura 2000 and Ramsar sites, exist adjacent to oil transportation routes. The Baltic Sea is also an important migratory route for black guillemot, waterfowl, geese and waders, and provides valuable habitat for marine mammals such as grey seals, Baltic ringed seals and harbour porpoises.

Other new protected measures, which were also adopted by the IMO, include new traffic separation schemes and a recommended deep-water route, both aimed at decreasing the risk of shipping and oil accidents.

WWF is also urging ships to follow the IMO’s recommendation to use pilotage when navigating from the North Sea into the entrances to the Baltic Sea for every ship with a draught of 11m or more, or by ships carrying hazardous cargo. Since December 2003, 10 ships with a cross-tonnage of 10,000 or more have grounded in the Great Belt. Four of these had a draft of 11m or more and should have taken a pilot on board in accordance with the IMO recommendation. In light of these statistics, and the dangers of the Danish straights, WWF will work to see that this recommendation soon becomes a mandatory requirement.

"We will continue to work with governments around the Baltic to ensure that these measures are adopted and proper protection is assured," said Anita Mäkinen, head of WWF-Finland's marine programme.

Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden were among the countries to support the Baltic PSSA.

“We applaud the governments who have pushed hard for this designation for years," added Gustavsson. "We are now urging Russia to add their waters to this designation, which would further safeguard the Baltic Sea.”


• Associated Protective Measures (APMs) are binding measures regulating shipping in an area that the IMO has designated as a PSSA. The APMs are decided upon by the member states of the IMO, but a proposal is submitted by the coastal countries concerned. The APMs can be international or territorial. APMs regulate
shipping, not ship structure, and hence requirement for double-hull cannot be an APM.

• Traffic separation schemes can be compared with lane divisions in motorways. Ships are referred to use a different route when travelling from north to south and vice versa.

For further information:
Anita Mäkinen, Head of Marine Programme
Tel: +358 9 77401034

Dragsfard, Baltic Sea, Finland.
© WWF / Mauri Rautkari Enlarge
One of two tug boats in the Baltic Sea responsible for towing tankers to and from the Fortum oil refineries on the Finnish coast.
© WWF-Finland / Päivi Rosqvist Enlarge

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