The Mediterranean Sea will be designated an emission control area (ECA) after an application from coastal states and others was approved by the International Maritime Organization.

A technical committee at the regulator has concluded that the application meets the criteria to be included as an ECA.

As an ECA, under Annex VI of the Marpol Convention, strict limitations on sulphur oxide (SOx) and particulate matter emissions will apply.

A limit of 0.10% m/m (mass by mass) on SOx emissions is currently applied in the four other ECAs: the Baltic; North Sea; the US and Canada; and Caribbean Sea.

Amendments to Marpol Annex VI will be made at the next IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in December.

The meeting will decide the entry into force date, which is usually 16 months after amendments have been adopted. That means the Mediterranean ECA limits would probably enter into force some time in 2024.

Under the terms of the Marpol Convention, ships will be exempt from complying for 12 months after the entry into force date.

The IMO secretariat will also carry out a review of the coordinates used to designate the boundaries of the proposed ECA.

The ECA application was made by European Union member states, along with North African countries Algeria, Libya and Egypt, and Syria, Lebanon and Israel in the Middle East.

The World Health Organization estimates that 507m people live in areas around the Mediterranean where air pollution exceeds respective national ambient air quality standards, and at levels that are unhealthy.