The remarks were made on the sidelines of an international conference held in Madrid, Monday. This comes after Barcelona City Council subscribed to CleanCruiseNetwork alliance in late 2018, an initiative to create an Emission Control Area (ECA) in the Mediterranean Sea (Med-ECA) to limit air pollution produced by ships.

Mr. Saura accepted that an ECA would oblige ships to use fuel with a sulfur content lower than 0.10%. However, he noted, this measure would be applicable, given that all countries support it, both European and African.

Another condition for the effective implementation, he added, is the measure to be adopted within the IMO, as a large part of the international maritime traffic passes through the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar.

The Secretary of State argued that restricting exclusively the establishment of an ECA to European waters, without being subscribed by the countries of the African coast, 'would not result in any benefit in the reduction of emissions and would harm our ports and maritime sector.'

Ships sailing in an emission control area must run on fuel containing up to 0.10% sulphur, compared to the current 3.5% limit. IMO's sulphur cap, to take effect from 1st January 2020, lowers the 3.5% limit to 0,5% globally, outside ECAs, unless ships have a scrubber installed.

Currently, existing ECAs include the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, the North American ECA, including most of US and Canadian coast, as well as the US Caribbean ECA, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

France has also been intensively engaged in discussions concerning a Mediterranean ECA. On the sidelines of a side event of the MEPC 73 meeting at IMO headquarters in late 2018, France presented the results of its impact assessment of a possible ECA in the Mediterranean.