The Baltic Sea is the world’s largest brackish body of water and has many rare and unique ecosystems. It is also one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes, where the oil and cargo traffic of St. Petersburg and western Russia cross paths with dozens of ferries. And it is about to get busier - Russia is building a giant oil terminal and passenger numbers are expected to increase when Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania join the EU.
There have been hundreds of minor oil spills here every year, many of them intentional releases of contaminated bilge water, but environmentalists most fear a disaster like the Prestige oil tanker spill last year that polluted 3,000 kilometres of Spanish coastline, killing 300,000 sea birds and directly affecting the livelihoods of 30,000 people. The Baltic is especially at risk since it is only connected to the North Sea by narrow channels and takes around 30 years for a complete exchange of the sea’s water.
The EU has responded with a number of measures including an immediate ban on single-hulled oil tankers carrying heavy grades of oil from entering the waters of the European Union with only double-hulled tankers allowed to sail into ports from 2015.
Julie Sors | EurekAlert!
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