The Helsinki Rescue Department wants to increase its capacity for fighting oil spills at sea.
A draft of a plan for fighting oil spills in 2005 - 2009 is currently being circulated among interested parties and institutions for comment. The proposal calls for a significant upgrade in preparedness to deal with oil pollution.
Approval of the proposal by the Helsinki City Board, the Uusimaa Regional Environment Centre, and the Oil Protection Foundation would triple the training and equipment needed to fight oil spills.
The plan also calls for a fivefold increase in the collection capacity of the oil gathering system, and a doubling of personnel resources.
The Rescue Department has asked for a separate budget to fight oil pollution.
"A separate budget would be very important. Now we have to think whether or not to get a new fire truck or more oil-fighting equipment. With a separate budget, they would no longer compete against each other", says Markku Rissanen, chairman of Helsinki’s working group on fighting oil pollution.
The risk of a major oil accident off Helsinki has grown considerably in recent years. There are more ships sailing from east to west and back through the Gulf of Finland than ever before, including oil tankers sailing to and from two new Russian oil terminals in the east of the Gulf. The numerous passenger ships and other vessels sailing between Helsinki and the Estonian capital Tallinn add to the risk of a collision off Helsinki.
Helsinki is also promoting itself as the location of a planned oil pollution prevention centre.
No final decisions have been made on establishing such a centre, but the policy programme of the government of Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) calls for an assessment of the need for such a facility.
The Ministry of the Environment set up a working group to investigate the issue in December last year. The working group’s final report is due by the end of this year.