Comparing to Alaskan water whereby the local laws have successfully introduced grey water regulation and compliance monitoring to large passenger ships for 2 decades, the Baltic Sea Special Area has inherited the weaknesses of MARPOL Annex IV, as evident by the certified magic boxes and a lack of monitoring or visibility to STP discharge performances. On land, in addition to the uncertainty of PRF adequacy, there is a lack of transparency to sewage disposal routes and the capabilities of receiving WWTWs. Importantly, issues such as the conflicting TN removal population thresholds (12 vs. 10,000), the open-ended percentage TN target, the exceedances against the local permissible concentrations, and the nutrient contribution of animal carriers can have significant and long-lasting implications.
The IMO needs to showcase the effective implementation of its environmental rules. This well ringfenced Special Area can be a candidate. To address the <0.1% nutrient contribution, money and natural resources are being invested twice, once in the PRFs, and once in the STPs. Industry is committed. The Baltic Member States will no doubt be well equipped and committed to showcase the effectiveness and the benefits of the Special Area which they initiated. Time will tell if the Special Area is really special.