The fragile and unique Baltic Sea, part 2/3

The Finnish Environment Institute continuously measures the Baltic Sea’s phenomena such as the sea’s nutrient content, salinity, wave heights and ice formation. In the Baltic Sea, noise pollution caused by shipping, military operations and construction is one of the monitored risk factors. However, exhaust gas emissions from shipping are an even greater problem than noise pollution.


Image: Pasi Laihonen, Development Manager at the Marine Research Centre (SUOMEN YMPÄRISTÖKESKUS), in Helsinki.

“They are still a relatively unresolved issue. While there are tight controls on shore-based industrial flue gases, shipping has been left out despite being a major generator of pollution”, says Pasi Laihonen, Development Manager at the Marine Research Centre of The Finnish Environment Institute.

“The Baltic area’s low discharge rate and sulphur-intensive fuel are a damaging combination. You could say that ships have pretty well been used as problem-waste receptacles. They use the very worst kinds of fuel that are no longer permitted on land. This is evident in environmental loading.”

In terms of its size, the Baltic Sea is one of the world’s busiest oceans for traffic. The sea is continuously criss-crossed by almost 3,000 vessels and traffic is continuously increasing. Congestion hotspots include the mouth of the Gulf of Finland, the Sea of Åland and the Danish straits.

“Traffic is dense in these congested locations. This increases the risk of accidents, which are also an environmental risk factor. Other threats posed by busy shipping traffic include refuse and the dumping of bilge water, non-indigenous species brought along in ballast tanks, and the erosion effects of bow waves, particularly in the archipelago.”