Interview: Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary, reflecting on BALEX DELTA

Monika Stankiewicz
HELCOM – Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission,
Executive Secretary

How do you see the Baltic Sea region’s preparedness to maritime incidents?
The Baltic Sea is characterized by dense vessel traffic and high shipping activity. Incidents are therefore bound to happen. Unlike in some other parts of the world, in the Baltic Sea, the responsibility for response to maritime accidents lies within the countries. This means that the region has since long been well prepared for such eventualities. The operational skills are very high at the national level, and so is the interregional cooperation. The Baltic Sea is one of the best monitored seas in the world.

What is HELCOM’s role in regards to response to maritime incidents?
HELCOM provides the framework for well-functioning regional cooperation and concerted response to incidents. For example, the HELCOM Response Working Group is an important platform for regional cooperation among countries. In addition, the HELCOM Response Manual regulates response mechanisms at the regional level. It has been thoroughly tested and stood the test of time. The manual is frequently updated, with the addition of an entire volume on response at shore in 2013 and the adoption of updates by the HELCOM members in 2018. Efforts to update the hazardous substances part of the manual are also underway.

In that context, how important are the BALEX DELTA exercises?
The BALEX DELTA exercises provide operational testing of response procedures under real world conditions. They keep the region ready and steady for any potential incidents. The exercises also provide important feedback to improve procedures. Besides, for EU waters, the exercises are a good opportunity to link and strengthen cooperation between other overlapping maritime incident response systems such as the Bonn agreement or the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

What is special about this year’s edition, the BALEX DELTA 2018?
This year is particularly relevant because of the scope of the exercise, simulating a major incident that requires different types of response: to an oil spill, to a chemical spill, both at sea and at shore. We appreciate the additional financial support from the European Union through DG Echo that made this possible.

Your personal experience with BALEX DELTA?
Having been personally involved in the BALEX DELTA exercises since my beginnings at HELCOM as Professional Secretary in charge of maritime issues, I value the efforts and skills of the participants very much. I have fond memories of all BALEX DELTA exercises, especially the rowing competition!