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Regulation change limits offshore hazardous substance transfer zones

Muuga Harbor, east of Tallinn and one of two locations where STS transfers may still go ahead.
Muuga Harbor, east of Tallinn and one of two locations where STS transfers may still go ahead. Source: AS Tallinna Sadam

The government amended regulations governing in-shore, ship-to-ship transfers of hazardous substances, confining them to six locations off Tallinn and nearby Muuga. The development follows environmental pressure over the issue, while the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) can only issue permits for the procedure in conjunction with the Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet).

Bunkering, or ship-to-ship transfer (STS) is the process of pumping a liquid, usually fuel, from one vessel to another. Following Thursday's decision, it will only be permitted in six some in-shore locations, down from the current figure of 19, while the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has requested that liquefied gas STS transfers can still go ahead.

The six locations which risk assessment has deemed suitable for STS transfer are all at the port of Muuga (four locations), just east of Tallinn, and Tallinn itself (two anchorage points).

The amendment follows concerns over environmental risk in STS, particularly in conservation areas.

As reported by ERR News, the Estonian Greens filed a crime report with the PPA in February, in which they claimed that significant quantities of oil have been transferred via STS within a specially-designated conservation area, namely the Pakri special conservation area, close to the port city of Paldiski.

STS transfers remain forbidden at all other inshore locations

Muuga has been deemed a sufficient distance from both residential areas and the shore, yet close enough to port to facilitate both good connections and contingencies in the case of maritime accidents and emergencies.

The same is true of the two Tallinn locations, it is reported.

The legislative changes, which amend the "Procedure for Handling Hazardous and Noxious Substances at sea, on the Narva River and on Peipsi Järv", also include provision for the PPA to issue permits for the handling of hazardous and noxious substances via the electronic marine information system and in coordination with the Environmental Board.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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