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EC: New shipping fuel standards to reduce sulphur air pollutants in the Mediterranean by 80%

20 Dec 2022

The European Commission on Friday (16 December) said it welcomed the agreement reached by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on stepping up protection of the Mediterranean, with a considerable tightening of the rules on exhaust gases from ships. 

The European Commission said the designation of the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area for sulphur oxides (SECA) will eventually cut emissions of these gases by almost 80%, and will also cut emissions of harmful fine dust (PM2.5) by almost a quarter, with considerable benefits for human health and the environment. 

The initiative was developed in the framework of the Barcelona Convention by the Mediterranean States and the EU, and has been submitted jointly to the IMO. 

The designation of the Mediterranean as an emissions control area means that as of 1 May 2025 ships will be required to use marine fuel with reduced sulphur content. The permissible sulphur content  will fall from the current limit of 0.5% to 0.1 %. This drop should save at least 1000 premature deaths per year, and reduce new cases of child asthma by 2000 every year in the Mediterranean basin. 

Estimates point to around 300.000 premature deaths each year that are attributable to air pollution in the EU, a situation  the Commission is addressing through a major revision of its air quality legislation, as part of the Zero Pollution Action Plan

Next steps 

Under the European Green Deal, the EU is committed to decarbonising and depolluting all sectors including maritime transport. In the framework of the Zero Pollution Action plan and the EU Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy the Commission aims to extend the protection from shipping’s air pollution to all EU waters. Emission control areas for sulphur already exist in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, where they have proved very successful. Emission control areas for nitrogen oxides in those two seas have entered into force in 2021. 

The Commission will continue to contribute to preparations for the implementation of the Mediterranean SECA which should start immediately. Similarly, the Commission will also continue to support future initiatives by the littoral EU States aiming at creating additional ECAs to cover all EU waters, including through regional sea conventions. 


Photo credit: shraga kopstein on Unsplash
Published: 20 December, 2022

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