The Commission welcomes the agreement reached by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to step up protection of the Mediterranean, with a considerable tightening of the rules on exhaust gases from ships. This 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 large benefits for human health and the environment.
Sulphur oxides are exhaust gases from ship engines that burn marine fuel containing sulphur. As well as harming human health, they also cause acidification of water and soil. The designation of the Mediterranean as an emission 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 of marine fuels will fall from the current limit of 0.5% to 0.1%. This drop should prevent at least 1,000 premature deaths per year and reduce new cases of child asthma by 2,000 every year.
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.
The Commission will continue to prepare 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 Emission Control Areas to cover all EU waters, including through regional sea conventions.