There is no medium-term prospect of the Mediterranean following other seas of the European Union (EU) and becoming a sulphur emission control area (ECA).
While EU countries bordering the Mediterranean might, in principle, be in favour of forming an ECA, Jordi Vila, head of port operations and planning at the Port of Barcelona, said there was no guarantee that the countries of the African littoral would be ready to follow suit.
“The realisation of a Med ECA is very difficult because the ECA designation has to be unanimous in the IMO and will be very hard to achieve. So I would say that, at least in the medium term, the answer is no,” he told IHS Maritime at the LNG Med bunkering conference in Barcelona on Friday.
In the discussion that followed, hope was expressed by conference delegates that, because the IMO aims to introduce a global 0.5% sulphur limit in ship fuels by 2020, an ECA in the Med might be introduced as part of the global sulphur cap.
Other possibilities delegates discussed included unilateral action by Mediterranean EU member states to create ‘mini-ECAs’ either in individual ports or along their entire coastline.
A start on this has already been made in China. In early September, the ministry of transport announced a plan to cut SOx emissions from ships by 65% in the Pearl and Yangtze River Deltas and Bohai Sea by 2020.
James Ashworth of energy consultancy Tri-Zen added that the Australian government had failed to reach agreement to cut ship emissions in its national waters but that at state level administrations had been able to protect sensitive areas and unilaterally pass legislation banning dirty ships.
“You might adopt any one of the models we have discussed, until not having an ECA simply doesn’t make sense,” he concluded.