The Marpol Convention will be amended to include the Mediterranean Emissions Control Area (ECA) on 1 May 2024, as it was formally decided by the Imo on December 16. This means the emission limits applied there will take effect one year later, on 1 May 2025.

Both Imo secretary general Kitack Lim and green groups welcomed the decision, which sets a 0.1% cap on sulphur oxides and particulate matter in one of the world’s busiest waterways. It means operators in the Mediterranean have a little more than two years to adjust their fleets to the new ECA.

Closing the first in-person meeting of Imo’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC 79) in some three years, Lim said: “With regard to greenhouse gas emissions, you considered the outcome of the thirteenth session of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 13), and I note and welcome the progress made on these matters. It cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is that we keep the momentum and deliver an ambitious and fair, revised Imo GHG Strategy at MEPC 80 next year.”

The Med ECA was described as “a crucial step forward towards cleaner air in the whole region,” by conservationist group NABU. It said it is “highly welcoming a shift to cleaner fuels and improved air quality for almost 150m people”. However, Berlin-based NABU said: “We are disappointed policy makers missed the chance to enforce a full ECA covering both sulphur and nitrogen oxides.”

The Mediterranean ECA is the fifth worldwide for sulphur oxides and particular matter alongside existing ones in the Baltic, the North Sea, North American waters off the US and Canada, as well as in the Caribbean around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

“A Nitrogen Emission Control Area (NECA) like in the North and the Baltic Sea would further improve air quality and save hundreds of lives annually,” said NABU's Transport Policy Officer, Sonke Diesener.

Several countries on the Mediterranean rim with ageing domestic operating fleets, including Greece, are reluctant to entertain radical steps towards decarbonisation and have been seeking for slow, gradual measures.

Still, Imo’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) separately agreed, on December 16, in principle, to designate a “particular sensitive sea area” (PSSA) in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. This measure backed by France, Italy, Monaco and Spain aims to protect the oceans “from the risk of ship collisions, ship-generated pollution and to increase awareness on a critically important area for the fin whale and the sperm whale”. The northwest Med PSSA is already protected under the European Union’s Barcelona Convention on marine protection.

Filed: 2022-12-20