Oil pollution response methods
Due to the sensitive ecology of the Baltic Sea, it has been internationally agreed in the Helsinki Convention that the oil combatting policy of Baltic Sea countries is based on mechanical combatting and recovery of oil.
The agreement also restricts (ref. HELCOM Recommendation 22/2) the use of chemicals - so called dispersants - which lower the surface tension at the oil-water interface
and dissolve the oil slick into tiny droplets that are diluted into the sea water. Dispersants are not used in Finland.
All government-owned oil recovery vessels in Finland are capable of independent oil recovery i.e. they are permanently fitted with build in oil recovery systems. The principal strategy is to skim the oil from the water surface as quickly and completely as possible, so the oil can be reused or destroyed in an appropriate manner.
Aerial surveillance plays an important role in guiding the recovery vessel into the thickest part of the slick so that the oil can be recovered as quickly and efficiently as possible, and its drifting to the shore can thus be prevented. It is impossible to visually estimate from the vessel where the thickest parts of the slick are, but the infrared camera in the aircraft can detect them easily. Due to inherent characteristics of oil, about 90 % of the oil in a slick is concentrated on an area that is only about 10 % of the total area of the spill.
Ice-covered waters present additional challenges for oil spill response when compared to open waters - such as the remoteness of the area, the low temperatures, and seasonal darkness, along with the presence of ice. Finland together with other northern Baltic Sea countries, Norway, Canada and the USA has developed special response techniques for cold and icy conditions.
Additional information on oil spill response in ice: