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The Baltic Sea Will Be the First to Ban Cruise Ship Waste

And the city of Helsinki is going one step further.
A cruise ship leaves Helsinki Harbor.
A cruise ship leaves Helsinki Harbor. Vestman/Flickr

By all means visit our shores, but keep your filthy water to yourselves. That’s the message coming from the Baltic Sea this year, as the North European body of water becomes the first in the world to ban cruise ships from dumping waste water offshore. According to a decision announced by the International Maritime Organization this May, starting in 2019 all new ships entering the Baltic must either take their waste water away with them or pump it on land to be treated. In 2021 the rules will be extended to include older ships as well.

The timeframe still leaves the sea vulnerable in the interim. Currently, untreated waste water can be dumped 12 nautical miles (13.8 land miles) offshore and treated sewage just 3 nautical miles (3.5 land miles), which is why the Port of Helsinki announced sweeteners this week that will encourage visiting ships to stop dumping at sea now. Taken all together, they show the Baltic region taking a lead that other heavily frequented or vulnerable marine areas could well follow.