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The number of oil discharges observed at sea has further decreased

Press release 2018-03-07 at 9:57

The Finnish Environment Institute SYKE and The Finnish Border Guard

Fewer illegal oil discharges in sea areas were reported to the Finnish authorities in 2017 than in the previous year. There were 44 oil discharges in 2017, compared to 48 in 2016.

Investigations concerning illegal oil discharges were begun in four cases. Most of the discharges occurred near harbours or shores and involved small amounts of oil. The largest individual discharge involved around 1,000 litres of oil.


Discharging oil into the Baltic Sea is prohibited, because the Baltic is classified as a very sensitive marine area. Discharges in open sea areas have been decreasing in recent years. Seafarers and boaters are urged to pay more attention to their activities, particularly near harbours.

Oil discharge
Most discharges observed in 2017 occurred close to harbours or shores, as in this case filmed from a surveillance aircraft. Seafarers and boaters are also urged to pay more attention to their activities, particularly close to harbours. © The Finnish Border Guard

Oil discharge surveillance is a joint international effort

Oil discharge surveillance is carried out in marine areas with the help of aerial surveillance and satellite imaging. Last year, a total of 267 satellite images were taken through the CleanSeaNet satellite imaging service of the European Maritime Safety Agency EMSA. Any potential discharges detected in the images were verified on site.

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) obliges all Baltic Sea states to carry out regular aerial surveillance in their marine areas. The sensors of the surveillance aircraft used by the Finnish Border Guard can even detect oil discharges through cloud cover, up to tens of kilometres away from its route. The aircraft are also equipped with devices with vessel detection devices.

In 2017, Finnish surveillance aircraft patrolled the Baltic Sea for a total of 428 hours. The most active shipping lanes are surveyed in cooperation with other countries, particularly Sweden and Estonia.

Finland also participates actively in international surveillance operations, in which specific marine areas are more extensively surveyed by the surveillance aircraft of several countries. Finland participated in an aerial surveillance operation coordinated by Sweden in the northern Baltic Sea on 17 October 2017. A total of four surveillance flights were completed during the day and the European Maritime Safety Agency provided one satellite image of the sea area. No oil discharges were observed during the operation.

Satellite report
A satellite report provided by the European Maritime Safety Agency during the operation at 16.31 UTC on 17 October 2017. © EMSA

More information

Oil discharge surveillance
Administrative Officer Inspector Jari Rintamaa, Finnish Environment Institute
+358 295 251 565,

Investigations of oil discharge
Maritime Safety Advisor Pekka Parkkali, The Finnish Border Guard
+358 295 421 154,

Picture for media use:
Oil_spill_observations_2017.png (1 MB)

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