Baltic Sea aerial surveillance helps reduce illegal discharge of oil

Coordinated Extended Pollution Control Operations (CEPCOs) are just one aspect of HELCOM’s pollution monitoring in the Baltic Sea, but these operations act as a deterrent to the illegal discharge of oil and other pollutants from ships. The most recent CEPCO, carried out by aircraft from Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden, found no spills over a 27-hour period.

Three on-water vessels and European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) CleanSeaNet satellite monitoring supplemented the aerial surveillance work.

Whereas regular pollution prevention patrols are easily monitored by vessels in the region, allowing them to avoid detection during illegal dumping, these surveys occur at random times under tightly controlled security which allows the teams to get a realistic picture of what is happening when vessel operators think they are not being watched. Over time the surveys have resulted in increasing compliance, as ships don't know when surveillance is being conducted and thus are less likely to take the chance of being caught.

CEPCOs, in addition to playing a major role in reducing illegal discharges, create real-time opportunities for the participating countries to work together, preparing them for the kind of cooperative efforts needed during an actual spill emergency. Both of these aspects are important for oiled wildlife responders. Preventing spills means wildlife is not exposed to oil or other potentially dangerous pollutants and working cooperatively prior to a real spill increases the efficiency of any response once oil is spilled. This reduces potential exposure of wildlife to the spill as clean up, deterrent and rescue activities can begin more quickly.