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Cruise ship waste threatening Baltic Sea

Stuart Roberts,  Jul 17, 2009

Sweden's coastal waters are under threat from tons of human and other waste being regularly dumped into the Baltic Sea by passenger liners, according to a new report.

Untreated toilet waste and other effluent is ending up in the Baltic Sea because most harbors in the region do not have sufficient capacity to handle cruise ship waste, according to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study.

Only harbors in Stockholm, Visby, and Helsinki have the capacity to handle effluent and other waste water carried by visiting cruise ships, according to the study.

Because of poor on-shore waste handling capacity in Sweden and other countries, many ships are instead dumping their waste directly into the sea, according to WWF.

The practice is contributing to a well-documented rise in nutrient levels in the Baltic Sea, which can lead to algal blooms and other environmental problems that have potentially devastating effects on aquatic life and human health.

The European passenger liner industry has an annual turnover of about 160 billion kronor (US$20 billion).

More than 350 cruise ships will visits the Baltic Sea this year, making over 2,000 port calls, and the industry is growing at around 13 percent every year, according to WWF.

The environmental group wants Swedish harbors to improve their environmental commitment and increase their waste-handling capacity.

“We find it unfair that large harbors and cities are profiting from the cruise-line industry but are not prepared to put in place satisfactory methods for handling their waste,” said Åsa Andersson, head of WWF’s Baltic program, in a statement.

“We believe that some of these profits should be used to improve harbor facilities to offer effective handling of waste water.”

Swedish ports actually stood up reasonably well against other countries surveyed in the WWF study.

Of the 12 most visited ports in the Baltic, only Gothenburg in Sweden failed to demonstrate sufficient waste handling standards, along with the ports of Klaipeda, Kiel, Copenhagen, Riga, Rostock, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Gdynia.

Cruise ship waste threatening Baltic Sea
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