IMO designates the Mediterranean Sea as an emission control area

The Mediterranean Sea has been designated as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides and particulate matter at last week’s MEPC 79th session.

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The designation means that as of 1 May 2025 ships will be required to use marine fuel with reduced sulphur content. The permissible sulphur content will fall from the current limit of 0.5% to 0.1 %.

 This designation of the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area for sulphur oxides (SECA) is expected to cut emissions of these gases by almost 80%, and cut emissions of harmful fine dust (PM2.5) by almost a quarter, bringing considerable benefits for human health and the environment. The initiative was developed in the framework of the Barcelona Convention by the Mediterranean States and the EU and has been submitted jointly to the IMO. 

This drop should save at least 1000 premature deaths per year, and reduce new cases of child asthma by 2000 every year in the Mediterranean basin, the EU Commission said. 

The amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to establish the Mediterranean Emission Control Area will enter into force on 1 May 2024.

The North-Western part of the Mediterranean Sea has, in principle, been designated as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA). It aims to protect marine cetaceans that are breeding and feeding in the PSSA. The PSSA covers waters off the coastlines of France, Italy, Monaco and Spain.

A PSSA has associated measures aimed at ships and coastal states and in this case they are voluntary. The proposed measures recommend that ships should navigate with caution at 10 to 13 knots, keep lookout for whales and maintain a safe distance and report when in the presence of cetaceans.

MEPC 79 decision of the North-Western Mediterranean Sea as a PSSA was made subject to the further development and approval of the proposed associative protective measures. The measures will be discussed at the next meeting of the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) and it is expected that the final adoption of the PSSA will take place during MEPC 80.

Due to a lack of agreement on the decarbonization ambitions for the shipping industry the member states are set to further discuss the revision of the IMO GHG strategy at MEPC 80 in July 2023. The discussions will take place at Working Group meetings to be held from 20 to 24 March, and during the week prior to MEPC 80 in July 2023.

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