Estonia and Finland sign memorandum on Baltic Sea protection ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) and Finnish Minister of the Interior Maria Ohisalo signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday strengthening cooperation on Baltic Sea pollution detection and removal, and the development of common stances at an international level.

The interior ministers confirmed in the memorandum that, in order to strengthen reaction to marine pollution cases, common projects, exercises and expert exchanges are of critical importance. In addition, the cooperation with The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission - HELCOM) and other international institutions must continue as well, the ministers said.

Helme said: "The Baltic Sea is our common sea to protect and defend with our neighbors. To reduce the damages caused by pollution, all countries on the coast should be prepared for rapid discovery and removal of marine pollution cases.

"It is also in our interests to improve Estonia's preparedness to react to accidents and for that, we would like to replace our well-worn border guard vessel 'Pikker' with a vessel capable of discovering and removing pollution," he added.

Ohisalo added: "Pollution in the Gulf of Finland affects both countries. It is very important that we have an understanding on how to react rapidly and efficiently, where needed. The memorandum signed today specifies the responsibilities of our partnering institutions and will improve our already good cooperation."

The Estonian Ministry of the Interior said around 11,000 ships pass through the Estonian maritime area of about 10,000 square kilometers each year. Of those vessels, around 4,500 are smaller recreational boats, and close to 1,000 are tankers.

Marine traffic is most active in the Gulf of Finland, in the area between Tallinn and Helsinki, where intense traffic on the North-South lines criss-cross with tankers and cargo ferries on the East-West routes. It is also a location where human error and weather conditions can lead to collisions, causing extensive pollution and damages.

The ministers also discussed the situation caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and gave general overviews of crisis management.

On Wednesday, Helme and Ohisalo will participate at an international marine pollution removal exercise, conducted by HELCOM Balex Delta, during which extensive pollution removal is practised in cooperation with HELCOM member states, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and similar national partner institutions.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste, Andrew Whyte

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