The benefits of reducing air pollution due to restrictions on maritime fuels
Air pollution remains one of the most sensitive and painful environmental
issues. According to a study published by the World Health Organization and the
OECD (2010) environmental air pollution was
responsible for about 500000 premature deaths in Europe.
An epidemiological study published in Corbett et al 2007 by C. Wang, J.
J. Corbett titled
“The costs and
benefits of reducing
SO2 emissions from
ships in The
US West Coastal
Waters” (https://www.sciencedirect.com) pointed out
that around 60000 premature deaths
occurring near the coasts of Europe, East Asia and South Asia could be
attributed to an increase in emissions exposure from maritime transport.
One of the most important reports that manages air pollution management in
Europe is the EU directive (2016/2284/EU) which defines the emission ceilings
of its member countries for air pollution.
In addition, this directive defines and complies with the objectives-limits on the specific issue that member countries should respect throughout the period 2020-2030. Furthermore, the emission control strategies in the various sectors of economic activity such as industry, agricultural sector, road transport, etc. are also defined in this directive.
Although international maritime navigation is an important pollutant
emission in ambient air it is not included in the EU above directive.
Indicatively of the “pollutant intensity” of shipping is the fact
that while shipping in its entirety consumes 3% of global energy, shipping is
responsible for 12% of pollutants in SOx/NOx-suspended particles. It
essentially causes an environmental charge to almost four times the size of the
energy it uses.
The benefits of the restrictions of pollutants in shipping fuel
According to the study
prepared by the
EU, namely ECAMED: A
Technical Feasibility Study
for the Implementation of
an Emission Control
Area (ECA) in
the Mediterranean Sea
(11/01/2019), with the
imposition of restrictions on marine fuel (essentially restrictions on
emissions of SOx-oxides of Sulphur type) , there will be about 4100 fewer
premature deaths per year from 2030 onwards in the countries of the
Mediterranean Sea basin.
Based on this study, the World Maritime Organisation requires that the
maximum Sulphur content in marine fuels be drastically reduced (from 3.5% to
0.5%) starting next year.
But issuing such a requirement does not mean anything to the participating
shipping companies since they will not have any consequences in not applying
the requirement of the World Shipping Organization. In our opinion, the most
effective policy will be the adoption by all the states of the planet bordering
by the sea to adopt and implement in practice a decision similar to the decision
taken by other Northern European countries, transforming the Channel (English),
the North Sea and the Baltic Sea into an ECA-Emissions Control
The Proper Policy
The Emission Control Areas (ECAs) or Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) are sea areas in which stricter controls were established to minimize airborne emissions from ships as defined by Annex VI of the 1997 MARPOL Protocol.
As of 2011 there were specific number of existing ECAs worldwide: The
North Sea, the English Channel, the North America ECA (including most of the US
and Canadian coasts), the US Caribbean, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
On the other hand, possible future ECAs are Mexico coasts, Japan coasts and
The use of marine fuels with a Sulphur content greater than 0.1% is
prohibited within ECA.
The implementation of ECAs worldwide is an innovative decision to protect
the environment despite the initial strong reactions of the world shipping
community for a possible increase in the fares of ships and thus an increase in
the prices of goods transported.
The ECAs led to environmental protection and functioned as a forced change
in the direction of development and research in alternative marine fuels, while
until now they have succeeded in improving the environmental footprint of
The pioneering prospect for the Mediterranean Sea
In December 2019 the 22 Mediterranean countries and
according to the Convention for
the Protection of
the Marine Environment
and the Coastal
Region of the
Mediterranean (simply referred
as the Barcelona
Convention) will meet
to decide whether its members will initiate the transformation of the
Mediterranean Sea into an ECA zone,
according to the standards of other countries including Northern Europe.
Italy, France, Spain (EU) have already made public their common decision to
promote this prospect for the Mediterranean Sea. The EU and the Commission
should push all other member countries to agree on this prospect and should
push Greece that is a leader in global shipping, because the interests affected
are much greater in this member country, to co-sign this pioneering
All shipowners should understand that by implementing the decision to
transform the Mediterranean Sea into ECA they will achieve long-term savings in
their operating costs while obtaining a comparative economic advantage.
On the other hand, the Mediterranean Sea states will need to invest in the
necessary infrastructures so that the transition to the new era is done in a
smooth manner with the minimum economic cost in each case both for the market
and for the societies of these states.
The EU cannot vaccination around the world that the European economy is
based on innovation and environmentally sustainable development, and on the
other hand its member countries do not consent to this truly pioneering
decision that will help in addition to Mediterranean Sea and its peoples and
the whole planet.
Thanos S. Chonthrogiannis is an economist-researcher in the fields of economic research/business planning and strategic planning. His work experience moves in a wide professional field between managerial and advisory roles. He holds a degree in BSc (Econ) in Financial Economics, Birkbeck College, University of London and a postgraduate degree in MSc in Economics & Finance, University of Warwick (UK)