Finland Urges for Additional Pollution Response Vessel Amid Growing Oil Spill Concerns

The Finnish government has called for an expansion of the pollution response network in the Baltic Sea due to mounting fears of a potential oil spill from aging dark fleet tankers. The European Maritime Safety Agency currently has nine pollution response vessels stationed across Europe, but the nearest one to the Gulf of Finland is over 500 nautical miles away in Malmo, Sweden.

According to the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications, the risk of an oil spill in the Baltic Sea, particularly in the Gulf of Finland, has increased as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia. These sanctions have compelled Russia to use older vessels with weaker insurance coverage for oil transportation, raising concerns about the environmental impact of a potential spill.

The ministry highlighted the heightened risk during winter, as older vessels carrying sanctioned Russian oil may not be equipped to navigate icy conditions. Recovering from an oil spill in icy waters is significantly more challenging and costly compared to open water scenarios.

In response to these concerns, Finland is urging the European Maritime Safety Agency to deploy an additional pollution response vessel in the northern Baltic region to enhance preparedness for any potential oil spill incidents. This request comes in the wake of comments by Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström, who criticized Russia’s lack of concern regarding the environmental risks associated with oil transportation in the Baltic Sea.

The term “dark fleet” refers to tankers that are over 15 years old, have anonymous ownership, engage in sanctioned oil trades, and employ deceptive shipping practices to obfuscate beneficial ownership. These vessels pose a higher risk of environmental damage in the event of an oil spill.

For more information on the different risk profiles associated with the dark fleet, you can download our comprehensive explainer here.