Emission test results prompt NGOs to call for Med ECA

Sea traffic measurements said to show that pollution in Gibraltar and Barcelona is up to 70 times higher than most urban areas.

Image credit: Pixabay CC0

Updated on 24 Apr 2018 14:33 GMT

Germany's Control Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU), together with Spanish NGO Ecologists in Action, say they have carried out measurements of atmospheric emissions from sea traffic in the Strait of Gibraltar and Barcelona, and discovered that the levels of pollution in both areas are up to 70 times higher than the base level of pollution in most urban areas.

Both organizations are now urging the Spanish government to join up with France, which has led the drive to create a Sulphur Emissions Control Area (ECA or SECA) in a bid to radically limit the entrance of highly polluting shipping in the Mediterranean Sea - similar to the ECA implemented in northern Europe, which, the two NGOs say, has achieved an improvement in air quality of up to 50% since 2015.

Ecologists have invited, not just those responsible for air quality at ministry level, but also leading air quality technicians from Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, to participate in the International Mediterranean Shipping Conference - Reducing air pollution from ships in the Mediterranean Sea. The event is organised by France Nature Environnement, the French Environment Ministry and NABU, with the colaboration of the alliance of enviromental NGOs to which Ecologists in Action belongs.

According to the National Inventory of Atmospheric Emissions, just published by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Environment, international shipping contributed 40% of pollution by nitrous oxides, 44% of sulphur oxides and 22% of PM2.5 fine particulates (those smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) relative to the overall state figures for Spain in 2016.

The NGOs mention that cruise ships are the vessels with the highest emissions of greenhouse gases per kilometre travelled. In addition, passenger cruises often begin with consumers arriving at the cruise port by plane, therefore adding between 10 and 30% to the total emissions produced by cruises, they point out.

"We can't accept any excuse that continues to delay a more strict regulation over shipping emissions in southern Europe," remarked Maria Garcia of Ecologists in Action.

"The most important navegation routes from Asia cross the Mediterranean, and it is expected that this navegation traffic will increase by some 250% by the year 2050."