Commitment on addressing marine litter and air pollution from ships gathers momentum – 21/05/2019

Both marine litter and air pollution from ships -- two issues on which the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) works in close cooperation with relevant international organisations and Mediterranean coastal States-- featured prominently at two important events that took place in France and the UK earlier this month.

G7 ministerial meeting in Metz, France (5-6 May)

The meeting of the G7 Ministers and members of the European Commission in charge of the Environment addressed several issues pertaining to the sustainable use of marine resources.

On air pollution from ships, including particulate matter, ministers took note of the work being carried out on marine discharges from exhaust gas cleaning systems, and welcomed continued efforts by relevant institutions working in this field. In a similar vein, the Italian and French ministers unveiled a joint initiative aimed at designating an emission control area (ECA), which would reduce sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in the entire Mediterranean basin.

At a workshop on “the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter in Synergy with the Regional Seas Conventions” -- convened by the French G7 Presidency and UNEP/MAP, with the support of the Government of Italy --, participants acknowledged what they described as encouraging progress in the implementation of the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter. Reference was notably made to REMPEC activities on the management of marine litter from sea-based sources in ports and marinas in the Mediterranean, which are being implemented within the framework of the EU-funded “Marine Litter-MED” project and as part of the Cooperation Agreement between the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea (IMELS) and UNEP. The conclusions of the Workshop were conveyed to the formal session of the G7 Ministers of Environment on 5 May 2019, as a contribution to their deliberation, by the UNEP/MAP Coordinator.

74th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, London, UK (13-17 May)


Representatives of UNEP/MAP Coordinating Unit and REMPEC participated in the 74th Session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 74), which was held at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters. The main outcomes of MEPC 74 included follow-up activities on the IMO Action Plan to address marine plastic litter from ships (adopted in 2018) as well as the approval of draft guidelines pertaining to the new 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil that will be in force from 1 January 2020. The new limit will be applicable globally, except in designated emission control areas (ECAs) where the sulphur limit will remain at 0.10%.

At a side event held on the fringes of the meeting, France and REMPEC presented the outcomes of their respective technical and feasibility studies assessing the costs and benefits of an ECA in the Mediterranean. During another informal meeting with Mediterranean coastal States, which was convened by the European Commission and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), REMPEC presented a draft road map for designating the Mediterranean Sea, or parts thereof, as SOx ECA(s) under Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The road map will be high on the agenda of the 13th Meeting of the Focal Points of REMPEC to be held on 11-13 June 2019 in Malta.

While in London, REMPEC delegates participated in the meeting of the “Working Group on Marine Plastic Litter”, which developed the terms of reference for an IMO study on marine plastic litter from ships and considered a proposal to devise an IMO strategy to address the issue.

Visit the IMO website for a summary of MEPC 74. For access to meeting documents, visit IMO docs.