Cabinet wants to put stop to inshore hazardous substance STS transfers

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Stenbock House, seat of the Estonian government. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The practice pumping hazardous liquids such as oil and liquefied gases from ship-to-ship (STS) off Estonia's inland maritime coastline should be prohibited, the government said Thursday.

The cabinet discussed options for making changes to inshore STS, which is legal, while environment minister Tõnis Mölder (Center) said that: "The government has found that STS operations in inland maritime waters must be banned completely in the future and be permitted only in ports."

Estonia has no LNG terminal at present, though one has long been planned for the port of Paldiski, which in any case is adjacent to a conservation area which has been the scene of alleged STS transfers in the past.

"In order to conduct STS transfers of hazardous substances, ports need to increase their capacity. Liquefied gases (LNG/LPG) cannot currently be pumped from the ship to the terminal in our ports either, which is why STS operations have been carried out so far to deliver them to Estonia," Mölder went on, speaking at the cabinet's regular Thursday meeting.

Another option Mölder mentioned was to permit STS transfers in only a few designated anchorage areas.

Amending the law would help head off the environmental danger in special conservation areas that may arise from STS; this would render just one of the nearly 20 anchorage areas currently used for STS still permissible.

As reported by ERR News, the Estonian Greens filed a crime report with the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) in February, in which they claimed that significant quantities of oil have been transferred via STS within a specially-designated conservation area

While subsequent investigations found that STS transfers had not taken place at that time within the specially-designated area, there was evidence that they may have done in the past.

The cabinet had canvassed local government, including in Tallinn, local residents and interest groups before making their decision, BNS reports.

STS transfers further out to sea could not be forbidden, however, BNS reports, but the opportunity should in any case be taken to review the country's pollution control readiness, Mölder said, including that as applied to vessels and Estonia's coastline.

This review would be conducted by the interior, finance and economic affairs ministries, as well as the environment ministry.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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