IMO promotes sustainable shipping in the Mediterranean

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 16.12.2022 17.50
Press release
Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

A session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) held in London on 12-16 December 2022 discussed an update to the preliminary greenhouse gas strategy of the IMO, together with several other maritime climate and environmental issues. While the outcome of the session was minimal with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, the states nevertheless reached an accord on two measures to reduce the environmental impact of maritime traffic in the Mediterranean.

Finland joined the other EU Member States at the MEPC session in supporting a tightening of the global emission reduction target for the year 2050 from the current 50 per cent to 100 per cent. Finland and the other EU Member States will work in the manner warranted by the climate crisis and the latest statistics when negotiating an update to the strategy. These countries are calling for the greenhouse gas strategy to include such measures as intermediate goals for the years 2030 and 2040.

Very little progress was made in updating the strategy during negotiations conducted over the week. The states chiefly agreed that already decided short-term emission reduction measures will be recorded in the greenhouse gas strategy. An update to the most important elements of the strategy, meaning its vision, the level of ambition of climate goals and the choice of medium and long-term means, will be postponed until meetings to take place in 2023.

The session barely had time to discuss means of reducing emissions in the medium and long term. Finland supports the combination of a global fuel standard and economic steering proposed by the EU Member States. Finland further stresses that this global means of reducing emissions must be agreed soon.

No progress made in regulating discharge water from sulphur scrubbers

Finland and the other EU Member States expressed support at the session for banning marine discharges of washing water from sulphur scrubbers in sea areas, such as the Baltic Sea, that the IMO has designated as sensitive to the effects of these emissions. No progress was made in regulating discharges, and the matter was postponed until 2024.

Mediterranean becomes control area for sulphur oxides

The session approved the declaration of the entire Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area for Sulphur Oxides and Particulate Matter (SECA). This is the outcome of efforts sustained over several years, especially from EU Member States. The control area will take effect on 1 May 2025. Ships have so far been required to use fuels containing less sulphur or to use alternative measures such as sulphur scrubbers when navigating in the Mediterranean. The proposal was submitted by all of the Mediterranean coastal states, and is also supported by all EU Member States, owing to the exclusive competence of the EU conferred by the Sulphur Directive. All of the coastal states must ratify the air protection annex of the MARPOL Convention in order for the control area to apply to their territorial waters.

The Baltic Sea has been a control area for sulphur oxides since 2015. Finland shared its favourable experiences regarding regulation in the Baltic Sea while preparing the control area proposal for the Mediterranean. The Finnish Meteorological Institute has also been preparing emission and impact assessments for the proposal. Declaring the Mediterranean a control area for sulphur oxides promotes a level playing field for navigation in European territorial waters.

Protection for whales in the North-Western Mediterranean

A proposal was submitted at the session by France, Italy, Monaco and Spain, seeking to designate the North-Western Mediterranean as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) in order to protect fin and sperm whales and other species. The proposal secured support, and establishment of the protected area was provisionally approved.

What's next?

Negotiations on medium and long-term means of reducing emissions and updating the preliminary greenhouse gas strategy of the IMO will continue at meetings of the greenhouse gas working group in March and June, and at an MEPC meeting in July 2023.


Anita Mäkinen, Chief Specialist, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the IMO, Transport and Communications Agency Traficom, tel. +358 40 162 4592, [email protected], Twitter @AnitaMakinen

Eero Hokkanen, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Transport and Communications, tel. +358 50 476 0401, [email protected], Twitter @eerohokkanen