The Chemical Tanker Project
The Chemical Tanker Project, which is being jointly carried out by the John Nurminen Foundation and Traficom, seeks to reduce discharges of harmful substances into the Baltic Sea from tank washing on chemical tankers. The project began with a risk assessment to identify the most harmful chemical discharges from tank washing on chemical tankers. Solutions to reduce such discharges will be sought in cooperation with chemical industry companies, ports and shipping companies. In spring 2023, the project was extended to Sweden in cooperation with Coalition Clean Baltic and the Swedish Transport Agency.
The objective is to reduce discharges of hazardous chemicals into the Baltic Sea
When a tanker carrying liquid bulk cargoes – that is, chemicals – washes its tanks, this can result in the discharge of hundreds of litres of harmful and hazardous chemicals into the sea in one go. After unloading their cargo, chemical tankers often wash their tanks with seawater en route to the next port of loading. According to international legislation, washing water containing chemicals can be discharged into the sea within certain limitations. The ship must be travelling at least 12 nautical miles (approx. 22 km) from the nearest land and the depth of the sea must be at least 25 m. In practice, this means that in the shallow Gulf of Finland, for instance, tank washing has to be carried out in a relatively small area of the sea.
Even though the washing water is diluted when it mixes with the Baltic Sea, it is advisable to avoid discharges of harmful substances. Our foundation wants to ensure that avoidable chemical flows do not burden the Baltic Sea.
The Chemical Tanker Project seeks to identify the most harmful and hazardous chemical discharges into the Baltic Sea resulting from the tank washing of chemical tankers at Finnish and Swedish ports. It also seeks to find solutions to reduce permissible discharges. The John Nurminen Foundation is carrying out this project in cooperation with the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, Coalition Clean Baltic and the Swedish Transports Agency.
The most harmful and hazardous chemicals and their quantities have been assessed
The project began with a risk assessment to identify the chemicals that could potentially have the greatest harmful impact on the marine environment and human health. The risk assessment took into consideration how harmful each chemical is to the environment and how hazardous it is to human health, and the quantities discharged at Finnish ports. On the basis of the risk assessment, the project is seeking solutions to reduce cargo residue emissions of styrene, tall oil, butyl acrylate and vinyl acetate in particular. These substances are used in the chemical industry, for example, in the production of plastics, paints, adhesives and biofuels.
Seeking solutions to reduce emissions in cooperation with various actors
The project engages in cooperation with ports, chemical industry companies and other actors in the field to find the best means of reducing emissions. The chemical load caused by tank washing can be reduced by means such as developing tank emptying and washing methods as well as the treatment of washing water. The most effective solutions may vary for different chemicals – for this reason, the companies using these chemicals play a key role in finding the best solutions. For example, for tall oil and styrene, there are already cost-effective ways to treat tank washing water on land so that cargo residues are reused and do not end up in the sea. The aim of the project is to implement best practices in all companies in the field, both in Finland and Sweden.