TALLINN - A sudden wave of popular outrage in Finland directed at Tallink on Nov. 15 forced the Estonian shipper to announce that it would temporarily stop discharging sewage and wastewater into the Gulf of Finland.
In its Nov. 13 issue, the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote that Tallink ships were still discharging their wastewater into the Gulf of Finland, while their competitors used the Helsinki sewage system.
The Finnish seamen's trade union went so far as to criticize President Tarja Halonen for her decision to open her presidential campaign on board the Victoria, a Tallink cruiser. Union leader Simo Zitting said that he was disappointed by the decision of Halonen's campaign team to rent the Victoria and take about 1,600 people to Tallinn.
As the Finnish media pointed out, Tallink's crew are paid about half the wages as their Finnish counterparts. Zitting saw Halonen's choice as a message to Finnish trade union members.
A Tallink Group official told the Baltic News Service that the company had decided to analyze the quality of its onboard purification system with respective specialists and experts. "Until the analyses arrive we have decided to dispose of the water purified on board the ships at the ports," he said.
He added that Tallink's larger ships had onboard biopurification plants, and that purified water was absolutely harmless to both the environment and people. "The water discharged from the ship's purification unit is by several of its characteristics cleaner than marine water," he said.
The official was surprised to hear that, in the opinion of the press and competitors, the Romantika, recently built by a Finnish shipyard, was not keeping up with effective environmental standards.
He added that the information about opportunities to discharge wastewater at ports was incomplete.
Though there is no such capability at the Port of Tallinn, it is complicated at Helsinki, where only ships of a certain size and certain characteristics can dispose of their wastewater.
"During the past summer nearly 400 big cruise ships visited Tallinn and Helsinki," the company representative said. "Most of them certainly have well-working purification installations. If Tallink is reproached for discharging water purified by certified purification installations that meet all the requirements, the question arises whether anyone has been interested where the large cruise ships discharge their wastewater."
Finnish Ambassador to Estonia Jaakko Kalela said that Halonen's visit to Tallinn would be private and connected to the opening of her election campaign.