IBIA speaks in favour of Mediterranean ECA at MEPC 78
Member States expressed some concerns at IMO last week about a proposal to designate the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area (ECA) for sulphur oxides (SOx).
During discussion in plenary at the 78th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 78), a majority of those who spoke supported the proposal, highlighting the benefits for human health and the environment due to reduced SOx and particulate matter emissions from shipping in the region. It was a remarkable achievement to obtain agreement among the 21 contracting parties to the Barcelona Convention to apply for ECA statues, after many years of discussing the possibility of a partial or more comprehensive ECA in the Mediterranean. In fact, all coastal States of the Mediterranean Sea were co-sponsors of the proposal.
It was noted, however, that the application to demonstrate that a SOx ECA is justified in the Mediterranean was based on data from before 2020, leading some to question the credibility as it did not have data on the air quality improvements since the introduction of a 0.50% sulphur limit globally (outside ECAs).
Several member states were concerned about the fact that not all the Mediterranean coastal States are Party to MARPOL Annex VI, which could undermine the uniformity of implementation. They urged ratification of Annex VI by those States prior to the Mediterranean ECA taking effect.
Other concerns raised were about the possible economic impact on fuel prices and global trade as the Mediterranean is a crucial international shipping route which means the impact goes beyond countries in the region. Safety issues related to fuel switching and sufficient availability of 0.10% sulphur fuels were also questioned.
IBIA spoke in favour of the proposal at MEPC 78.
“We support the proposed Emission Control Area in the Mediterranean, which should bring air quality benefits for populations in the region. We already have experience with extensive Emission Control Areas in Northern Europe and North America, where implementation of the 0.10% sulphur limit was relatively smooth. There should be sufficient availability of compliant fuels for this new Emission Control Area too, as marine gas oil with maximum 0.10% sulphur are offered in most supply locations both in the Mediterranean, and globally,” IBIA’s IMO representative Unni Einemo told the meeting.
After a technical group review, MEPC 78 approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to designate an ECA for sulphur oxides and particulate matter for the Mediterranean Sea, with a view to adoption at MEPC 79 (12-16 December 2022).
If adopted at MEPC 79, the Mediterranean SOx ECA could take effect from early 2025, probaly on 1 May 2025.