Malta Independent

Malta should support cleaner Mediterran­ean Sea through Emission Control Area – BirdLife


A proposal to declare the Mediterran­ean Sea an area where ships are obliged to switch to a cleaner fuel has so far gained the support of various Mediterran­ean states, with Malta still not declaring its position on this motion, BirdLife Malta said in a statement on Saturday.

Environmen­t Ministry officials attending the COP22 – the meeting of the Contractin­g Parties of the Barcelona Convention – being held in Antalya next week (7-10 December), are being urged to support the designatio­n of an Emission Control Area (ECA) for sulphur emissions.

A Mediterran­ean Emission Control Area (MedECA) has been the focus of years of campaignin­g by various partners in the Mediterran­ean region. The establishm­ent of such an area would mean that any ships (from cargo to cruise liners) transiting the Mediterran­ean Sea or stopping at ports like Malta’s Grand Harbour and the Freeport, use fuel with a lower sulphur content, with the resulting benefit being lower emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx) in the air. Sulphur emissions in the air are associated with negative impact on the human respirator­y system as well as adverse effects on vegetation, freshwater, soils, and the general state of ecosystems.

The proposal being tabled for a vote is an amendment to Regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI, regulation­s which are part of an internatio­nal convention to prevent pollution from ships, as governed by the Internatio­nal Maritime Organisati­on (IMO). The end result would be a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) – considered a first step in a gradual shift to cleaner fuels from shipping which is expected to see further shifts to lower nitrogen content, as has been the case with the establishm­ent of Sulphur and Nitrogen Emission Control Areas in the North and Baltic Seas in Europe.

Malta has one of the largest shipping registers in the world and situated just southwards of the main shipping routes between the Suez Canal and Gibraltar, it has a very influentia­l position at both Mediterran­ean and global level. Meetings held with Environmen­t Ministry officials encouragin­g Malta to support the motion have so far remained non-committal on the matter, with concerns sounded on the economic impact of such a measure.

Experts of the Together Against Air Pollution from Ships group of which BirdLife Malta forms part, have however discounted such claims, saying that any increase in shipping costs brought about by shifts to cleaner fuel would be negligible at the consumer end, with health benefits in terms of ailments associated with air pollution far outweighin­g even economical­ly such a shift. For the emission controls in the Mediterran­ean, the estimates of monetized benefits reach up to €10 billion/year in 2030 and increase to almost €30 billion/year in 2050. A combined ECA in the Mediterran­ean Sea could prevent 3,100 to 4,100 premature deaths annually in 2030. BirdLife Malta readdresse­d the issue with a letter to Minister Aaron Farrugia earlier this week, with Malta’s position seemingly unchanged on the issue.

Commenting on the matter, BirdLife Malta’s CEO Mark Sultana said: “While the vote proposing the Mediterran­ean Sea as a Sulphur Emission Control Area is expected to gain the support of most Mediterran­ean states, we would like to see Malta be on the right side of history when it comes to ensuring cleaner air at our ports and just outside our shores. We urge Minister Farrugia to support this motion without hesitation, keeping in mind the thousands of citizens that live around our harbours.”

The vote on the MedECA for Sulphur is expected to be taken on the 8th of December. The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterran­ean Sea (REMPEC), an IMO administer­ed body, has earlier this year issued a video about the matter, highlighti­ng Malta’s non-supportive stance of the motion.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta