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UN body moves to ban sewage dumps by Baltic cruise ships

Updated fredag 22 april 2016 kl 17.15
Published fredag 22 april 2016 kl 15.49
WWF's Mattias Rust: Struggling for this for years
(4:12 min)
A cruise ship in downtown Stockholm. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf / SvD / TT.
A cruise ship in downtown Stockholm. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf / SvD / TT. Credit: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/SvD/TT

By 2021 all passenger cruise ships will be banned from dumping sewage waste in the Baltic Sea, a decision hailed by the Swedish government and environmental groups.

On Friday the UN's International Maritime Organization introduced the ban that covers ferries and cruise ships sailing through the sea.

The new rules mean dumping sewage in the Baltic will not be allowed for new vessels by 2019 and for existing ones by 2021. Under the ban ships will have to unload their sewage water at port or clean it to a high degree before releasing it.

Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson praised the decision as an environmental success for the heavily polluted Baltic.

"I'm glad we finally have a ban on sewage in the Baltic Sea. In Sweden we have worked very actively with this issue," Johansson said in a statement.

The UN body had tried to pass an earlier ban but failed after several countries, notably Russia, fought to postpone it. They argued that ports within the Baltic are unable to accommodate the large amounts of sewage cruise ships have to unload.

Mattias Rust, who is responsible for maritime issues at the environmental group WWF here in Sweden, welcomed the decision even if it was a long time coming.

"We have been struggling for this for quite a few years," he told Radio Sweden.

He said the practice of emptying raw sewage is terrible for the sea's ecosystem. Dumping sewage can create a health hazard as well as deplete oxygen in the water. He did note that some smaller ferry operators were already refraining from releasing their sewage at sea.

Rust said the ban will be enforced by individual member states and admits that it may be tricky to carry out.

"This will be a challenging task," he said, adding that the states concerned with the ban can celebrate now. But he underscored "the need to step into the next phase and look into, first, the possibilities for the ships to leave everything ashore and, secondly, to control it."

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