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News|16 Jul, 2009

Baltic Sea ports overlook cruise ship waste

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Sunset over the Baltic Sea, Finland
Large amounts of sewage from cruise ships likely are being dumped into the Baltic Sea because major ports in the region have failed to upgrade their facilities to dispose of the waste.

Stockholm, Sweden – Large amounts of sewage from cruise ships likely are being dumped into the Baltic Sea because major ports in the region have failed to upgrade their facilities to dispose of the waste.

Only three of more than 20 cruise ship ports around the Baltic – Helsinki, Stockholm, and Visby – have adequate facilities to handle waste from cruise ships when they dock, even though they bring in millions of euros from tourism.

In a letter sent today, the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Action Programme urges those ports to take action and upgrade their facilities. The 12 most visited cruise ports in the Baltic region are: Gdynia, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Klaipeda, Kiel, Copenhagen, Riga, Rostock, Stockholm, Saint Petersburg, Tallinn and Visby.

“We find it unfair that so many ports are profiting from cruise line tourism but are not prepared to take care of their waste,” said Pauli Merriman, Director of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. “We believe that some of these profits should be used to make needed upgrades to their facilities as it should be the responsibility of any country or city that wants to receive these ships, to offer adequate sewage reception facilities“,

WWF initially contacted ferry lines and cruise ship companies sailing in the Baltic Sea two years ago, asking for a voluntary ban on waste water discharge. That same year, most of the ferry lines responded positively.

In May, many cruise lines, through their umbrella organization, the European Cruise Council (ECC), made a voluntary commitment to stop dumping their waste water in the Baltic Sea “when certain conditions are met”. These conditions included “adequate port reception facilities which operate under a ‘no special fee’ agreement”.

“We are happy that the cruise lines have made this commitment and we believe it is now up to the ports to do their part,” said Anita Mäkinen, Head of Marine Program at WWF Finland. “It’s a scandal if we let this pollution continue.”

WWF also is working within the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to push for stronger regulations, which currently allow the discharge of ship waste to international waters. In a paper submitted this week to the IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee, WWF urges the IMO to strengthen its regulations regarding the discharge of ship waste in eutrophied semi-closed or closed waters, such as the Baltic.

The Baltic Sea will receive more than 350 cruise ship visits with more than 2,100 port calls this year and the industry is growing by an estimated 13 percent per year.

The waste-water produced in these vessels is estimated to contain 74 tons of nitrogen and 18 tons of phosphorus, substances that add to eutrophication. In addition to excess nutrients, the waste water also contains bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, as well as heavy metals.

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