The Memorandum of Understanding (Baltic Sea)

The Memorandum of Understanding for the Transport of Dangerous Goods on Ro-Ro Ships in the Baltic is a multilateral agreement on the transport of dangerous goods in packaged form between Denmark, Germany, Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden that has existed for more than 20 years. Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were not part of the MoU from the beginning but have ratified it in recent years. Lithuania signed the MoU at the last conference (2002), which was held in Riga, Latvia.

The purpose of the MoU is to facilitate the transport of dangerous goods on ro-ro ships in the BalticSea by departing from the rules that normally apply to international maritime transport, i.e., the IMDG Code (International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code).

The MoU was developed because the differences (which were much greater in the early 1980s than they are today) between land transport rules (the regulations for road and rail transports are ADR and RID, respectively) and maritime transport rules caused problems when transport was to rapidly switch from land to maritime transport. For instance, the differences between the regulations meant that a transport of dangerous goods from Helsinki to Hamburg must change the documentation and marking of the packages as well as the cargo transport unit six times because the transport route included three maritime transports (Helsinki – Stockholm, Helsingborg – Helsingör and Rödby – Puttgarden) with intermediate land transports.

The goal was thus to create an agreement that would efficiently combine the rules to enable transport of dangerous goods on certain short routes in the Baltic Sea while maintaining safety but eliminating the need to relabel or reload goods between modes of transport.
The MoU contains both operative and technical parts. The operative part means that the dangerous goods can essentially be classified, packaged, consolidated, marked, labelled, documented and loaded/unloaded according to land transport rules when transported in specific areas in the Baltic Sea (now referred to as Low Wave Height Areas). The technical part has to do with the standards the ship must meet to be allowed to transport dangerous goods. Ships must be equipped and constructed according to the international standards provided in SOLAS (The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea).

The MoU has been successively adapted to changing regulations over the years. The current rules in international regulations (ADR, RID and the IMDG Code) are, as said, much more similar than they were when the MoU came into existence. The various international organisations are now working actively to harmonise and adapt regulations to each other in order to facilitate multimodal transport.