Mediterranean Supports ECA with Strict Sulfur Limits by 2025

Mediterranean ECS proposed with strict limits on sulfur emissions
(file photo)

Published Dec 13, 2021 3:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

The EU, together with countries from around the Mediterranean Sea, committed to further efforts to protect the environment around the Mediterranean, including moving to become a sulfur emissions control zone. By 2025, the Mediterranean could become the fourth emissions control area joining Northern Europe in the efforts to mandate the use of low sulfur marine fuels.

The decision came as part of a meeting of the members of the 25-year-old UN Barcelona Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean. The convention, which was first adopted in 1976, includes 22 parties with the EU and eight EU Mediterranean member states as well as cooperation from countries around the Mediterranean.

At the conclusion of last week’s meeting, the group voted to support the designation of a sulfur emissions control area (ECA) in the whole region. A broad range of NGOs had long been advocated for the action. Under the language accepted by the signatories of the convention, ships steaming through the Mediterranean would only use fuels containing low sulfur. It calls for a much stricter standard of just 0.1 percent versus the global standard and 0.5 percent sulfur levels presently. 

“Our commitment today manifests the will to work with our non-EU partners to achieve high standards of environmental protection in line with our European Green Deal,” said Virginijus Sinkevi?ius, the EU’s Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries. “I am particularly proud that all contracting parties have agreed to designate the Mediterranean as a sulfur emission control area to protect the health of millions of Mediterranean citizens and their marine environment from ship’s pollution.”

The Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), an NGO that had been at the forefront of the effort to gain adopting of the ECA explained that the Barcelona Convention decided in 2019 on a roadmap to declare the Mediterranean Sea a Sulfur Emission Control Area. The NGOs were concerned that the convention was delaying actions.

The Barcelona Convention had previously agreed to work on the proposal for the ECA through the IMO. So the next step will be applying to the IMO to add the resolution to the next meeting in October 2022 of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MPEC). Adoption at MPEC would clear the way for the ECA to begin as early as 2025.

The ECA proposal was part of a declaration endorsing a new strategy for 2022 to 2027 to achieve a healthy, clean, sustainable, and climate-resilient Mediterranean Sea. They agreed on a total of 18 decisions, including two regional plans to tackle marine litter and urban wastewaters, as well as their budget.