International Maritime Organization-registered passenger ships are to be banned from disposing sewage waste into the Baltic Sea, which has become one of the most polluted bodies of water in the world.

Last week, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed that the Baltic Sea special area for sewage discharges from passenger ships under Annex IV of the MARPOL Convention will take effect by 2021 at the latest for passenger vessels.

However, in the case of direct routes between St Petersburg area and the North Sea, there will be a two-year extension to the deadline, until 2023.

“For new ships that have been constructed during or later than 2019, the requirements will apply earlier.”

This decision implies that by 2021 all IMO-registered passenger vessels sailing in the Baltic Sea will have to discharge all sewage at port reception facilities (PRFs), or treat it with an on-board treatment plant certified to meet special area requirements.

For new ships that have been constructed during or later than 2019, these requirements will apply earlier.

The proposal to designate the Baltic Sea as a special area for sewage within MARPOL Annex IV was initially developed by the HELCOM Maritime Working Group, which comprises maritime administrations of the Baltic Sea coastal countries and the EU.

The proposal was then submitted to IMO MEPC by the coastal countries in 2010, after a decision by the 2007 HELCOM ministerial meeting in Cracow, Poland.

Based on the submission, the Baltic Sea was designated by IMO as a special area for sewage in 2011.

However, according to this IMO decision the status would only take effect once the coastal countries informed IMO that adequate Port Reception Facilities are available in the region.

At the IMO meeting last week, all Baltic coastal countries had sent confirmation of adequate reception facilities in Baltic ports.