Possible decision to establish an Emission Control Area in the Mediterranean in 2022

On January 18, during an official meeting between various maritime transport stakeholders in the Mediterranean, the French government has reasserted its decision to establish an Emission Control Area (ECA) by 2022. Further to the publication of a detailed health report completed by a public-private consortium, which rules in favor of the project in light of its positive impact.


Set an example by going an extra mile

This project conducted by the French government was designed to decontaminate the Mediterranean basin by limiting polluting particle emissions due to maritime activity. In fact, with traffic increasing, regulations regarding clean propulsion technologies are critical. Marseille’s basin is irrevocable, maritime transportation is responsible for 20% of nitrogen oxide emissions, 70% of sulfur oxide emissions and 2% of primary fine particle emissions.

In February 2016, Mediterranean countries had already adopted a regional prevention strategy against marine pollution due to vessels.

In 2020, a new international regulation will come into effect. It should greatly reduce pollution in the Mediterranean: the maximum authorized percentage of sulfur in fuel should drop from 3.5% to 0.5%. The French government wishes to benefit from these new regulations by drafting a joint proposal to IMO (International Maritime Organization) with its Mediterranean neighbors. The establishment of an ECA in the Mediterranean, similarly to existing protected areas in the Baltic and North Seas, would strengthen France and affected countries’ involvement in this battle by lowering standards as much as possible, reaching 0.1% for sulfur.

Shipowners facing their responsibilities

Environmental nonprofit organizations (France nature environnement, Cap au Nord…) attended this meeting to make maritime companies take responsibility, calling for local initiatives and alluding to scrubber systems (installed by some ship owners on their vessels to remove toxic fumes and reach the 0.5% sulfur threshold), which sometimes release waste water at sea instead of draining their systems when docked.

On the opposite side, Ship owners -represented by Jean Marc Roué, representing maritime companies and Jean Francois Suhas President of Marseille Provence Cruise Club – mentioned their intent to cooperate and support this project as much as they can. Despite reluctance toward these regulations due to the deadlines and costs the latter might cause,
“We, ship owners, ask not to withdraw from these regulations, but that financial cost and time this may cause are taken into consideration. World citizens will also have to bear this cost”, explained Jean- Marc Roué.

Next steps

In 2019, France is going to approach other European countries which may want to join the initiative and support the dossier. Then the Council of European Union, in charge of “air quality” expertise will give consent for a request to be filed with IMO by March 2020. The goal is to have a Mediterranean ECA come into effect by 2022.