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ESPOO/HELSINKI, Finland: The Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) is creating a ‘Ship/t Waste Action’ project at the Finnish port of HaminaKotka to produce biogas from sewage discharge.

Under current International Maritime Organization rules, while passenger ships are prohibited from discharging waste at sea, there is no such constraint for cargo vessels.

The discharge of wastewater and food accelerate two of the worst problems of the Baltic Sea: eutrophication (growth of harmful algae, dead zones and dead fish) and oxygen depletion.

With a shoreline of nine countries, a heavily populated catchment area, shallowness of the sea and water stratification, large areas of the sea bottom are now dead due to poor oxygen conditions while heavy marine traffic increases the risk of oil spills.

“We can achieve our objective of a cleaner Baltic Sea, one ship, one port and one country at a time,” noted BSAG Project director Elisa Mikkolainen. “The nutrient load on the sea decreases every time wastewater is discharged at the port. [However] we need extensive cooperation to succeed in our mission,” she added.

According to the group there are approximately 2,000 ships operating in the Baltic at any time and 95 percent of these are cargo ships, crewed by approximately 25,000 seafarers.

Members of BSAG, including Finnish shipping lines Meriaura and RABN plus the German Essberger & Stolt joint venture, Norwegian tanker operator Utkilen and Danish containership giant Maersk, want to create a circular business model of turning sewage refined by Finland’s state-owned energy company Gasum into biogas as a fuel for maritime vessels.

“The port of HaminaKotka is the largest general port in Finland, visited by approximately 2,500 cargo ships every year,” said its development manager Suvi-Tuuli Lappalainen, “We want to encourage the ships to discharge their wastewater at the port. Our sewage reception and treatment facilities meet the requirements of the circular economy,”
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