The Gulf of Finland has the highest risk of oil spills in the Baltic Sea. Working under the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the Working Group on Risks of Maritime Activities in the Baltic Sea focuses on developing tools which will enable different institutions to understand the risks.

The Gulf of Finland is a narrow marine area with a great deal of traffic. The biggest environmental risk is posed by the heavy traffic of oil tankers from Russian harbours. 

Working under the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Working Group on Risks of Maritime Activities in the Baltic Sea is developing scientific tools which will support the decision-making related to oil risks.

The technology for tracking ships are well developed. The members of the working group have focused on what kinds of decisions could best protect endangered coastal species that are at risk if the oil makes its way ashore.

Researchers have, for example, developed software which can help firefighters and other responders choose the places where containment booms would be most effective in terms of protecting endangered species.

The members of the multidisciplinary working group have also calculated whether it is more effective to invest in oil spill response or to seek to prevent spills from occurring. Finland already has so many response vessels that prevention turned out to be the more effective option. In addition, the weather conditions are rarely such that vessels with state-of-the-art technology are necessary.

During the past few years, the University of Helsinki has produced three doctoral dissertations on the risks of oil spills, so the scientific foundation for risk calculations is solid. The ICES working group wants to make the available information more accessible and applicable for a variety of decision-making situations.

 “We must facilitate the use of research which supports political decision-making by different organisations. This process enables sociological research on how useful the end-users ultimately find scientific information to be, meaning that academic research still has a role to play," states Professor Sakari Kuikka, co-chair of the working group.

The ICES Working Group on Risks of Maritime Activities in the Baltic Sea held its meeting in Copenhagen in November 2016. The chairs of the working group are Robert Aps from the University of Tartu in Estonia and Sakari Kuikka from the University of Helsinki. The working group is the only branch of ICES to focus on shipping accidents.

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