Illegal oil dumping from ships into the Baltic Sea has decreased significantly over the past decade despite increased traffic as surveillance has improved, reports AFP. HELCOM, a marine environment protection organization made up of the EU and the nine countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. Last year there were 178 deliberate, illegal oil spills from ships, a drop of 15 percent from 2008 and down by a quarter compared to 2007. Illegal dumping has fallen by more than 60 percent since 1999, when 488 cases were detected by national surveillance planes, and the size of spills has also fallen, HELCOM said in a statement. But the culprits of illegal oil dumping often go unpunished as the polluters remain unknown “in the vast majority of cases,” said HELCOM. Over-fished and affected by agricultural nutrient discharge and industrial waste, the Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted seas in the world, and Greenpeace says it is so toxic pregnant women should not eat its fish.
A Russian court on May 7 jailed for five years one of the accused over the mysterious seizure of a cargo ship last year in a case that sparked an international piracy intrigue, reports LETA. The Russian-crewed, Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea disappeared in July last year, prompting a massive international search and speculation it was carrying illicit cargo, such as weapons destined for Iran. When it was recaptured by Russian warships in August only its listed cargo of timber was found on board. Eight men - including Russians, Estonians and Latvians - were accused of the alleged hijacking. The verdict took only five minutes to be read out with no lawyer present. Russia has insisted that nothing suspicious was found on board and strongly denies reports that it was carrying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, which Russia had earlier agreed to sell to Iran. Skeptics insist that the hijacking in a busy European shipping lane and the huge international effort to recover the ship raise questions about the official version of events.