Saving the Baltic Sea

Finland is a small country and Russia a large one, and they regard the Baltic Sea in different ways, believes Daria Gritsenko. However, both countries could make a significant contribution to help the sea.

The routes on the Baltic Sea, the sea with the most traffic in the world, sometimes have tankers and cargo ships lining up like trucks on a busy road. And just like on the roads, the seafaring vehicles also cause pollution and have accidents.

 “There are happier news alongside the environmental and safety risks,” says postdoctoral researcher Daria Gritsenko from the University of Helsinki’s Aleksanteri Institute.

Many ports and shipyards have voluntarily implemented ecological solutions. For example, the Port of Gothenburg is known for its green policies. Ship companies that operate responsibly can apply for a Clean Shipping certificate. Ecological concerns have become a competitive advantage on the seafaring market.

Gritsenko advises political decision-makers in the Baltic Sea region to look to practical seafaring for ideas on how to protect the sea. Good practices could be turned into norms.

The researcher also welcomes consumers to the efforts to rescue the Baltic Sea.

 “Shipping by sea is cheap – partially at nature’s expense. Consumers should demand responsible seafaring, even though it is more expensive.”

Gritsenko would like shops to adopt a new ecological badge that would certify that the product was shipped in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Many do not see Russia, the researcher’s native country, as a particularly active player in the rescue efforts for the Baltic Sea, quite the opposite. We think of the photos we’ve seen of defunct water purifying facilities and the dredging operation of the Port of Bronka.

According to Gritsenko, Finland is a small country and Russia a large one, and they regard the Baltic Sea in different ways. For Finland, the Baltic Sea has great economic and symbolic value. For Russia, it is just the peaceful periphery of a big country.

 “The diminishing importance of the Baltic Sea in Russia has to do with the intensification of centralised power. If regional governments were stronger, the situation of the Baltic Sea would receive more attention. The problems of the Sea are more concretely apparent in St Petersburg than they are in Moscow.

Seafaring and the Baltic Sea have been familiar to the researcher since her childhood. The young Daria would spend her summers at her family’s dacha on the shores of the Baltic Sea, near Zelenogorsk.

This article was published in Finnish in the 9/2015 issue of Yliopisto magazine.