Greenpeace today welcomed the United Nations' International Maritime Organisation (IMO) decision to designate the Baltic sea as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area, as proposed by all the countries bordering the Baltic Sea with the exception of the Russian Federation. (1)
The decision opens the way for a stringent environmental control
of international shipping in the Baltic, and Greenpeace announced
the launch of a campaign to secure that additional protection
measures are adopted by the IMO no later than in 2005.
The decision was adopted at this week's meeting of the Marine
Environment Protection Committee of the IMO in London. The Baltic
Sea protection status was adopted despite stiff opposition by the
Russian Federation who formed an alliance with Liberia and Panama,
the two largest flags of convenience states. (2)
"As a citizen of a country bordering the Baltic, I find it
encouraging to see the vast majority of Baltic States working
together to protect our sea, but I am deeply concerned to see
Russia opposing environmental protection," said Sari Tolvanen of
Greenpeace. "Unless everyone around the Baltic pays attention, the
Russian oil industry is going to jeopardize our future," she
Tolvanen said that the United Nations agency decision was
motivated by the anticipated massive increase in shipping due to
Russia's plans to further expand the export of oil through the
Baltic Sea passage. Whilst she welcomed the precautionary approach
of the rest of the Baltic states, Tolvanen said that much work
remains before the Baltic is truly protected. "The PSSA
designation is just a first step. It created a framework for
putting into place concrete regulatory steps to decrease the threat
from shipping. The countries now have a big job to do, making sure
that the framework is filled by a full set of appropriate specific
In addition to designating the Baltic Sea as a PSSA, the
Galapagos and the Canary Islands received the same distinction.
However, Russia presented a reservation, which in IMO procedures
makes Russian flagged vessels exempt from any PSSA measure.
Notes: 1. The IMO is the UN agency, headquartered in London, that regulates shipping worldwide.2. The Russian delegation produced jointly with Liberia and Panama a written official submission in which the three countries vehemently opposed the designation of the Baltic as a protected area, and attempted to put a freeze on all future designations of protected status to sensitive marine environments.3. The PSSA guidelines provide for creation of associated protective measures that may include any measure that falls within the competence of IMO. The measures that will address the problem of shipping in the Baltic can include more stringent navigation rules, areas to be avoided, mandatory pilotage, demands for shipping construction, quality of crew training and financial liability.