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Finland calls for pollution response vessel as oil spill worries mount

The Scandinavian country is worried about ageing dark fleet tankers in the Gulf of Finland

The European Maritime Safety Agency has nine pollution response vessels stationed around Europe, but the nearest one to the Gulf of Finland is more than 500 nautical miles away in Malmo

FINLAND has called on the European Maritime Safety Agency to bolster its pollution response network amid fears of a dark fleet* oil spill in the fragile Baltic Sea.

The Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications said the risk of an oil spill in the Baltic (and especially in the Gulf of Finland) has grown as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia, which it said had “forced Russia to transport its oil with older vessels and weaker insurance coverage”.

The ministry explained that winter poses an even greater threat, with older vessels carrying sanctioned Russian oil not suited for icy conditions. Oil spill recovery was much more difficult and expensive in icy waters than open water, the department said.

Finland is asking the EMSA to station another pollution response vessel in the northern Baltic in case of a major oil spill in the ecologically sensitive region.

EMSA has nine response vessels stationed around Europe, including one at Malmo, Sweden, in the southern stretch of the Baltic Sea.



But that vessel is more than 600 nautical miles away from the Gulf of Finland, where a large number of dark fleet tankers transit on their way to or from key Russian ports such as Ust-Luga and Primorsk.

The demand from Finland follows comments made by Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström earlier this year that Russia “doesn’t care” about a potential oil spill in the Baltic.


* Lloyd’s List defines a tanker as part of the dark fleet if it is aged 15 years or over, anonymously owned and/or has a corporate structure designed to obfuscate beneficial ownership discovery, solely deployed in sanctioned oil trades, and engaged in one or more of the deceptive shipping practices outlined in US State Department guidance issued in May 2020. The figures exclude tankers tracked to government-controlled shipping entities such as Russia’s Sovcomflot, or Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Co, and those already sanctioned.

Download our explainer on the different risk profiles of the dark fleet here


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