The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), consisting of the Baltic coastal countries and the E.U., agreed on a roadmap this week which includes a commitment to submit a proposal for a Baltic Sea NOx Emission Control Area (NECA) to IMO.
The proposal will be submitted to the IMO MEPC 70 meeting, scheduled for October 2016.
NOx emissions from shipping are a major source of airborne deposition of nitrogen, aggravating the serious eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. Eutrophication is driven by a surplus of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus in the sea which causes elevated levels of algal and plant growth, increased turbidity, oxygen depletion, changes in species composition and nuisance blooms of algae.
According to estimates, Baltic Sea NECA has the potential to cost-efficiently and significantly reduce nitrogen input to the Baltic Sea annually by about seven kilotons.
This anticipated reduction is significant and corresponds to more than the entire country-wise nitrogen pollution load reduction commitment of several Baltic Sea countries according to the HELCOM Country Allocated Reduction Target (CART) scheme agreed in 2007, and updated in 2013.
The reduction is expected to occur after a time lag needed for fleet renewal, as the regulation addresses only new ships.
The Baltic Sea is an important route for maritime trade, and the number and size of ships sailing in the waterway continues to increase. Nutrient enrichment, or eutrophication, has become an environmental issue contributed to by shipping through NOx emissions and sewage discharge.
The initiative for a Baltic Sea NECA emerges from the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, agreed by the nine coastal countries and the E.U. in 2007.
Since 2007, HELCOM has carried out the necessary environmental and economic studies, finalized the needed submission papers as well as carried out intensive negotiations on the right timing for a final submission to IMO.
The Baltic Sea NECA submission is planned to take place parallel to a similar NECA submission from North Sea countries.