null Ban on the discharge of sewage from cruise ships into the Baltic Sea

Ban on the discharge of sewage from cruise ships into the Baltic Sea

Press release 22.04.2016 15.16 fi en

Press release of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and Ministry of the Environment

The International Maritime Organization IMO decided today on 22 April 2016 on the entry into force of the regulations concerning the special area of the Baltic Sea. By these regulations the discharge of raw sewage from passenger ships and ferries directly into the sea is banned. All the Baltic Sea states are unanimous in support of the decision.

New ships have to comply with the regulations as from 1 June 2019, while for existing cruise ships the time limit is 1 June 2021. Ships coming from outside the Baltic Sea special area and sailing directly to St. Petersburg have a further two-year transition period until 1 June 2023.

”The decision is highly significant in terms of the status of the Baltic Sea. I would have hoped that we could have proceeded much faster. Fortunately the ports already have the appropriate facilities to receive wastewater. Sewage from our domestic ships has been appropriately handled for a long time, and for the foreign cruise ships it should be possible for the shipping companies to put this in order more quickly than allowed by the decision”, Minister of the Environment Kimmo Tiilikainen points out.

"Cruise ships sailing in the Baltic Sea are a very positive addition to the whole area also with regard to Finnish tourism industry. However, we must also make sure that they are not a burden to the highly vulnerable ecology of the Baltic Sea. We are really happy about the understanding now reached in the IMO”, says Minister of Transport and Communications Anne Berner.

According to the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan adopted in 2007, loads entering the Baltic Sea that cause eutrophication must be reduced in all sectors, including maritime transport.

The Baltic Sea was designated as a special area by an IMO decision in 2011, upon application by the HELCOM member states. A condition for the designation to enter into force was adequate reception facilities for sewage​​ at Baltic Sea ports visited by cruise ships.

The new regulations apply to all passenger ships with more than 12 passengers. In practice the regulations apply to foreign cruise ships because the passenger ferries operating in Finland on a regular basis have for a long time discharged their sewage into reception facilities at ports.

The ban on the discharge of sewage will reduce the nutrient loading of the Baltic Sea caused by maritime transport. The options available to the cruse ships are to discharge sewage into port reception facilities or to install on-board sewage treatment equipment by which the amounts of nutrients can be reduced as required by the regulations (70% for nitrogen and 80% for phosphorus) before discharging the wastewater into the sea.


Kristiina Isokallio, Head of International Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 295 250 103,

Lolan Eriksson, Senior Government Adviser, p. +358 295 342 493,