HELCOM countries submit Baltic Sea NECA application to IMO

Final stage for HELCOM in making the Baltic Sea area cleaner from Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions from ships was reached in the Heads of Delegation meeting in Laulasmaa, Estonia this week. The final decision on whether the Baltic Sea becomes a NOx Emission Control Area (NECA) is in the hands of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). According to estimates, Baltic Sea NECA has potential to reduce the annual nitrogen input cost-efficiently and significantly – around 7 kilotons – to the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic Sea NECA application will be submitted in parallel to a similar NECA document from the North Sea countries. For the industry this will be useful as the two neighbouring NECA areas will create an area with identical requirements. Moreover, HELCOM will continue to promote and also follow up on the impact of applying advanced technologies, such as the ones leading to the establishment of Baltic NECA.

Other decisions by the delegates from all the Baltic coastal states as well as the EU include the launching of a public online follow up system – HELCOM Explorer – for reviewing progress in accomplishing the majority of HELCOM commitments and publishing of a new assessment on pharmaceuticals. In addition, the meeting participants approved two guidelines related to maritime spatial planning (MSP): Guidelines on transboundary consultations, public participation and co-operation, and a second set for the implementation of ecosystem-based approach in MSP in the Baltic Sea area.

Another agreement by the delegates is to change the hosting of data on ships’ movement in the Baltic – HELCOM Automatic Identification System (AIS) network – from Denmark to Norway by the end of this year. All Baltic Sea countries being also EU member states provide AIS information to European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) via the HELCOM AIS, and hosting by Norway will ensure the continuation of this service.

The two-year period of the Estonian Chairmanship of HELCOM will be terminated in two weeks and the turn is handed over to the European Union with their Chairmanship priorities already finalized. Reflections on the accomplishments of HELCOM in relation to the priorities of the Estonian Chairmanship were presented in the meeting and published in writing soon.