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News|10 Nov, 2004

WWF calls on Baltic Sea states to prevent another Prestige disaster

Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), injured by contamination caused by an oil accident in western coast of Estonia, in the hands of a volunteer, being taken to care

Helsinki, Finland – On the 2nd anniversary of the Prestige oil tanker disaster off the Spanish coast, WWF is calling on the Baltic Sea states to develop joint measures to avoid oil spills in the Baltic Sea.

The calls come as Baltic Sea states discuss safety measures for consideration by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN body that regulates international shipping.

“The Baltic Sea states must do their utmost to have the most effective safety measures adopted by the IMO in order to protect the Baltic Sea from major oil spills such as the Prestige catastrophe, which killed 300,000 sea birds and cost €5 billion in clean up and environmental damage,” said Anita Mäkinen, head of WWF’s Particularly Sensitive Seas Areas (PSSA) Baltic campaign.

“As Russia continues its expansion of oil transportation in the Baltic Sea the need for special protection measures in one of the Earth’s most vulnerable seas is imminent.”

In April 2004, the IMO, in principle, designated the entire Baltic Sea — apart from Russian territorial waters — as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). The PSSA designation, if adopted by IMO Member States in 2005, will enable coastal states and the IMO to agree on best associated protective measures to avoid oil spills.

The protective measures include vessel traffic monitoring systems, traffic separation schemes, compulsory pilotage, and escort towing of tankers to and from ports.

WWF is encouraging Baltic Sea states to implement a traffic separation scheme and a vessel traffic monitoring system, including an automatic identification system for the main shipping route reaching from the Danish Straits to the eastern most part of the Gulf of Finland.

These safety measures are already in place in the Gulf of Finland as a joint effort between Finland, Russia, and Estonia.

WWF also proposes that the Baltic Sea states take necessary measures so that compulsory pilotage can be introduced to the Danish Straits. Last month alone, three 100,000-ton oil tankers nearly ran aground or came close to collision in the straits.

“This is the moment for the Baltic Sea states to show their responsibility for our unique marine environment,” Mäkinen said.

“The Baltic Sea will not get the associated safety measures it deserves, unless the Baltic Sea states are unanimous in their proposal for the most effective measures.”

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Notes:
  • There are currently seven designated PSSAs: the Great Barrier Reef (Australia); the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago (Cuba); Malpelo Island (Colombia); the Florida Keys (US); the Wadden Sea (Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands); Paracas  National Reserve (Peru); and Western European Waters (the UK, France, Spain, Portugual, Belgium and Ireland).
  • Four additional PSSAs have received preliminary approval and are awaiting final confirmation by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC). They include the: Torres Straits (Australia and Papua New Guinea); waters of the Canary Isles (Spain), Galapagos Archipelago (Ecuador); and Baltic Sea (except Russian waters).
  • The Prestige tanker sank on 19 November 2002, after an erratic six-day drift near the Galician coast. Some 300,000 sea birds (mainly common guillemots, Atlantic puffins and razorbills) are estimated to have died from the oil spill.
For further information:

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

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