By 2021, all International Maritime Organization (IMO) registered passenger vessels sailing in the Baltic Sea will have to comply with the Annex IV of the MARPOL Convention related to sewage discharges from passenger ships, IMO agreed at the meeting of Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 69) held in London on April 22.
The decision means that all cruise ships must discharge all sewage at port reception facilities (PRFs), or treat it with an onboard treatment plant certified to meet stringent special area requirements. For new ships built in or later than 2019, these requirements will apply earlier.
However, in certain cases of direct passages between St. Petersburg area and the North Sea, there is a two-year extension to the deadline, until 2023.
The decision follows the efforts of Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) aimed at limiting sewage discharges in the Baltic Sea from passenger vessels, as the emissions have negative impact on the marine environment.
HELCOM Maritime Working Group consisting of maritime administrations of the Baltic Sea coastal countries and the EU developed the proposal to designate the Baltic Sea as a special area for sewage within MARPOL Annex IV that was submitted to IMO MEPC by the coastal countries in 2010.
IMO accepted the proposal, marking the Baltic Sea as a special area in July 2011. However, this status would only take effect once the coastal countries informed the IMO that they possess adequate port reception facilities.
By the IMO MEPC meeting, all Baltic coastal countries had sent the confirmation about available sewage port reception facilities.
Taking into account that the Nitrogen and Phosphorus contained in ship sewage aggravate the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, the IMO’s decision comes as a major milestone in more than 35 years of work to improve facilities and reduce sewage emissions from ships in the region, HELCOM explains.