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Number of oil spills continued to decrease in 2011


The number of oil spills detected by Finnish authorities has continued to decrease. In 2011, the authorities observed 57 oil spills compared with closer to 70 in the previous two years. The authorities were informed of a total of 83 potential oil spills last year.

A larger number of surveillance flight hours than in previous years

Aircraft operated by the Finnish Border Guard observed a total of 21 verified oil spills in the Finnish sea area. Helicopters observed eight oil spills and airplanes equipped with oil spill surveillance equipment observed 13 spills.   In addition, surveillance airplanes observed three oil spills in the Swedish and two in the Estonian exclusive economic zones. The Estonian surveillance airplane verified three oil spills in the Finnish Exclusive Economic Zone, and one spill was observed by German surveillance airplane.

Oil spills detected by Finnish surveillance planes in years 1996-2011

Oil spills detected by Finnish surveillance planes in years 1996-2011 

Oil spills detected by Finnish aircraft in 2011

Oil spills detected by Finnish aircraft in 2011 

In 2011, Finnish surveillance flights above sea areas exceeded the average level and amounted to 645 hours. The pollution per flight hour index, 0.03, was at a record low. This indicator offers strong support to the view that number of oil spills is  decreasing in the northern Baltic Sea.

Similarly, the average volume of oil spills detected during surveillance flights has declined significantly in the past few years. The average volume of spills observed within the Finnish exclusive economic zone in 2011 was some 30 litres. In the three previous years the average volume of a spill has been more than 100 litres, and the average volume of spills detected e.g. in 2005 was 608 litres.

In addition to surveillance flights, the satellite based oil spill detection service CleanSeaNet (CSN) service of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) contributes significantly to the surveillance of marine oil spills. In 2010, Finnish authorities received 250 satellite images through the EMSA. Finnish Border Guard attempts to verify all oil spill indications.

Finnish Border Guard investigates the oil pollution cases

In 2011, the Finnish Border Guard investigated nine cases to determine whether the conditions for imposing an administrative oil pollution fee were met.  In six cases, an oil pollution fee was imposed.  The fees varied from EUR 2,139 to EUR 17,112. Cases where no pollution fee was imposed were minor in terms of the volume and the environmental impact.

International cooperation contributes to the reduction in spills in the Baltic Sea

Last year, Finland organised SuperCEPCO Baltic 2011, a major pollution surveillance operation during which aircraft from five countries conducted surveillance over the northern Baltic Sea for a total of 68 hours. During the operation, one minor mineral oil spill was detected and two spills of other substances.  

The results of the pollution surveillance operations together with national and international statistics show that thanks to closer international cooperation and an increased risk of getting caught, the number of oil spills has decreased.  It would also seem that environmental awareness among shipping companies operating in the Baltic Sea has grown. Another contributor to the positive development is the HELCOM recommendation which states that all vessels in the Baltic Sea must dispose of any waste containing oil in collection points located in harbours.

Further information

Oil spill control
Kati Tahvonen, Research Engineer,
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
tel. +358 400 148 754,

Administrative oil pollution fees
Tom Lundell, maritime safety expert,
Finnish Border Guard
tel. +358 40 521 4685,

Aira Saloniemi, Chief Editor for Web Services
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
tel. +358 400 148 875,



Ministry of the Environment Finnish Environment Institute Finnish Meteorological Institute

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