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International Maritime Organization bans ships sewage in the Baltic Sea

Alla Petrova, BC, Riga, 04.10.2010.Print version
At a last minute session, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed on October 1 to ban the discharge of sewage from passenger ships and ferries in the Baltic Sea. The decision comes after a three years World Wildlife Fund (WWF) campaign to stop the dumping of waste water in the Baltic Sea, environmental group WWF reports.

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, writes LETA.


The decision will make the dumping of waste water illegal from 2013 for all new ships and from 2018 for all ships, when sufficient port reception facilities are available. A special 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."


This 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 on October 1.


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.


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