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On the sidelines of a side event of the MEPC 73 meeting at IMO headquarters, France presented the results of its impact assessment of a possible emission control area (ECA) in the Mediterranean Sea to minimize shipping emissions.

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On the sidelines of a side event of the MEPC 73 meeting at IMO headquarters, France presented the results of its impact assessment of a possible emission control area (ECA) in the Mediterranean Sea to minimize shipping emissions.

The findings revealed that a combined ECA which addresses sulphur and nitrogen oxides at the same time has the greatest positive effect in terms of reduced air pollutant concentrations as well as corresponding socio-economic and ecological benefits.

Environmentalists welcomed the report and renewed their call for the immediate designation of all European waters and particularly the Mediterranean Sea as ECA for international shipping.

"The results are unambiguous; an ECA would result in cleaner and healthier air for the residents in Mediterranean countries. Moreover, the effects for the economy will be positive. Every day six to ten thousand ships are operating in the region while they burn toxic heavy fuel oil. Now we need the cooperation of littoral states to facilitate a Mediterranean ECA at the IMO,"

...said Sönke Diesener, transport policy officer at Germany-based organisation NABU.

An alliance of European environmental organisations, in late March 2017 in Rome, adopted a declaration to designate the Mediterranean Sea an ECA, after France reportedly undertook a bold attempt to push for a Mediterranean ECA at a European Council working party meeting, in early March.

"France is taking the lead on Mediterranean countries proposing to catch up and protect the citizen’s health, eco-systems and the cultural heritage. Especially as none of the industry’s horror stories of poor fuel availability or service and company shut downs became a reality following the introduction of an ECA in the North Sea or Baltic Sea. Such a step would also establish a coherent European legal framework that prevents market distortions and guarantees a level playing field,"

...added Charlotte Lepitre, health policy officer at France Nature Environment.

The European Commission and the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) are currently also commissioning respective studies to assess the impact of ECAs in the Mediterranean Sea.

In a next step, a coalition of Mediterranean countries will have to submit an application to the MEPC which asks for SOx, NOx and particle emission limits for international ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

The full assessment report will officially be published in the next days.

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