In June, we announced the start of the waste reduction project ’MERI’ on our fleet. It received a great deal of publicity, even in the mainstream media in Finland. It has been also noticed elsewhere in Europe: our project manager Thomas Friis was invited to the Project Cargo Summit in Rotterdam to present the project. Now the project has been running for about three months. We have not yet made miracles, but we have gathered information and ideas, trained our office staff and crew onboard, and gained a great deal of experience, for example on how leaving the ship’s sewage in ports works.

The “no-special-fee” system that is in use on the Baltic Sea (as recommended by HELCOM), has been designed to encourage the use of port reception facilities. This means the waste fee paid for each port call covers reception, handling and final disposal of all ship-generated waste (oily waste, solid waste and black water) and is charged regardless of whether the ship actually leaves its waste or not. In our experience, unfortunately, many ports have refused receiving sewage. We do not want to point out anyone but have to say that even in Finland there are ports that are not capable of receiving the waste waters from ships as the law requires. For the sake of the poor condition of the Baltic Sea, this needs to be changed urgently. Ships have only two options: disposing at the port or pumping to the sea. If it fails at the port, we know what the remaining option is. Of course, the shipowner can order a tank truck on it’s own account, as we have had to do many times since July. But to be honest, in most of the cases the cost is too high to bear as an extra cost for almost every port call. And it doesn’t feel right, because shipping companies already pay the port for receiving the waste.

Thomas Friis presenting our waste project in Rotterdam

The acceptance of project by our crew has been positive. We had fruitful and interesting discussions in our Officers meeting earlier this week with the captains, chief mates and engineers. The waste water was once again one of the main topics, but another issue emerged are the plastic bottles that are a big source of waste on board. At sea, drinking water is very commonly purchased bottled, perhaps partly out of habit, but also for hygiene reasons. Ship’s tank water does not always meet hygiene requirements and it depends also on where the tanks are filled. We have already actively addressed the freshwater tanks and measures to be taken to ensure that the tank water would always be potable. This allows ships to stop using bottled water and significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste generated onboard. One other small individual action taken I also want to mention, is the composter we purchased for Polaris VG for test use. The crew of Polaris VG reports their composting experiences during the coming winter. If composting works in ship conditions the way it does ashore, we will acquire composters for all our vessels. There will be more stories coming later, on the composting experience and the other small and big things that are happening in our fleet as part of this project.

The work for the sea environment is extremely important, but it is not done for free. In order to lighten our burden a bit, we have applied funding for our project from the Baltic Sea Project. It is an admirable project of Ålandsbank, which focuses on improving the state of the Baltic Sea by financing good ideas. We hope that our application will succeed in the competition, as we strongly believe that the approx. 2000 ships sailing every moment in the Baltic Sea, and their waste, matter. We do not just want to make our own fleet more Baltic Sea-friendly, we want all the ships to reach a zero-waste level on theBaltic Sea.

Thomas Friis
Fleet Manager,
Responsible of the waste reduction project ‘MERI’

VG-Shipping’s vessel leaving sewage in a port. According to the agent, this was the first incident of its kind in this port.