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For coastal areas and port cities, maritime traffic is a particularly important source of air pollution, which constitutes a serious threat to public health and the environment.
The ships use fuels with a high sulfur content that emit pollutants that are severely dangerous to human health due to less strict regulations than those that govern land emission sources. Among these pollutants are nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM).
In fact, the European Commission estimates that every year 50,000 Europeans die prematurely from air pollution caused by ships, especially from nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, tropospheric ozone and particulate matter.
For this reason, the CleanCruiseNetwork alliance (which was founded in 2016, that gathers NGOs mainly from the Mediterranean region such as Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece but also beyond such as Brussels-based Transport & Environment and NABU from Germany) have launched a campaign with the “Rome Declaration”, which followed a one-day international Mediterranean Shipping Conference held in Rome, to achieve the greatest number of possible supports for this initiative, in which the Spanish Government is urged to:
• Actively support the creation, as soon as possible, of an Emission Control Area in the Mediterranean Sea (Med-ECA) to limit air pollution produced by ships (covering all major air pollutants, such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides, but also particles and black carbon), thus supporting efforts in this direction initiated by France and other coastal states of the Mediterranean.
• Consistent with the previous point, to coordinate with the European Commission, with France and the rest of member states of the European Union (EU), as well as with non-EU coastal states, to ensure the creation of said Mediterranean ECA and, subsequently, once created, to support the implementation of a cooperative cross-border management of the same.
• To urgently implement the relevant measures in the Ports of the State to ensure the reduction of emissions from ships, forcing them, once they are docked, to connect to the electricity grid for daily operation, among other measures.
The continued success of the Emission Control Areas that already exist in Northern Europe, in the seas of North America and other areas, demonstrates that the creation of an ECA in the Mediterranean Sea would also generate significant benefits in terms of improved air quality, not only in the maritime routes and coastal areas but also in the port and cities situated on the peninsula. Other consequences will be immediate improvements in public health, limited damage to ecosystems and cultural heritage, and allowing member states to reduce air pollution at the local level and the consequent impact on global warming.