The European 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%.