A new study has been launched into the feasibility of implementing an emission control area (ECA) to limit the release of sulphur oxides (SOx) from ships in the Mediterranean Sea.

The research is also expected to examine the potential health benefits for people living around Mediterranean, as well as cost implications for shipowners and other issues.

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) will be responsible for coordinating the study, which will investigate whether the Mediterranean Sea, or parts of it, can be marked as a SOx-ECA under IMO’s prevention of pollution convention (MARPOL) Annex VI.

"A global consortium led by Energy & Environmental Research Associates (EERA) is slated to conduct the study under a contract that was signed with REMPEC in June."

There are currently four designated SOx-ECAs worldwide, namely the Baltic Sea and North Sea areas, along with a North American area covering designated coastal regions off the shore of the US and Canada, and the US Caribbean Sea area surrounding Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Ships are required to use fuel oil containing 0.1% mass by mass (m/m) of sulphur within the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (ECASs).

However, they are permitted to use oil with 3.5% m/m outside ECASs.

The SOx limit is set to reduce from the current 3.5% m/m to 0.5% m/m from 1 January 2020.

A global consortium led by Energy & Environmental Research Associates (EERA) is slated to conduct the study under a contract that was signed with REMPEC in June.

The research is scheduled to be completed next year and will receive funding from the IMO’s Integrated Technical Cooperation Programme, the Mediterranean Trust Fund and the Italian Government.

In a separate development, the second phase of an IMO-implemented project has been launched in Bangladesh in order to promote safe and environmentally friendly ship recycling processes.

The SENSREC Project Phase II – Capacity Building initiative has been funded as part of a $1.1m agreement with the Government of Norway.