The UN’s Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) has partnered with an international consortium led by Energy & Environmental Research Associates (EERA) to examine the possibility of turning the Mediterranean into an Emission Control Area (ECA).
The feasibility study will specifically assess the health benefits of reducing the sulphur content of marine fuels for citizens living in the region, as well as the potential cost implications for ship owners.
There are currently four sulphur oxides (SOx) ECAs in place globally. They are located in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the United States Caribbean Sea area, as well as designated coastal areas off the US and Canada.
In these areas, the limit for the sulphur content in vessel fuel oil is capped at 0.10 per cent. Outside of the ECAs, the current limit is 3.5 per cent, but this will fall to 0.5 per cent in 2020 with the introduction of IMO’s global sulphur cap.
Air pollution from ships has been linked to some 400,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease worldwide, as well as 14 million childhood asthma cases per year.
Research has shown that the effective enforcement of the sulphur cap could help to prevent 700,000 cancer and heart disease deaths and 40 million childhood asthma cases during the first five years of implementation.
The Mediterranean ECA study will be finalized in spring 2019 and will be presented during a future session of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee.