Tours in Normandy
SECA zone in north of Europe


The SECA zones (SECA for Sulphur Emission Control Area) are maritime areas in which strict controls of merchant ships have been established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to minimize emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and Prohibit any deliberate release of ozone-depleting substances. It also governs waste incineration on board and emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from tankers.

The various SECA zones in the world

Adopted in 1997, Annex VI Rules for the Prevention of Air Pollution by Ships of the Marpol Convention establishes:

    - emission control areas subject to more stringent controls on SOx emissions;
     - NOx emission control areas for Level III NOx emission standards.

This regulation that came into force in 2005 is the contribution of the maritime industry to the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Annex VI was revised in July 2010 and introduced more stringent emission limits.

Since 2011, four ECAs exist around the world:

     - Baltic Sea and North Sea for sulfur emissions;
     -North America and United States Caribbean Sea Area for emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides and particulates.

Since 1 January 2015, the ECA zones have seen the sulfur content of fuels used on board merchant ships reduced to 0.1% against 1% previously. The limit of 0.1% was previously limited to vessels that spend more than two hours in ports in SECA zones that had to meet these standards during their port stay.

As of 1st January 2020, IMO has secured an agreement to reduce the share of sulfur in marine fuels used worldwide to 0.5%, commonly known as "IMO III".

At the same time, in meditterannean sea for example, it is common to meet nowadays fuels displaying a share of sulfur flirting with the 4% !  When in Northern Europe, the maximum tolerated is 1.5%.

The cost of converting engines to use a cleaner fuel is enormous, there are two solutions: either implement systems for purifying fumes (called "scrubbers"), or do nothing.

It is to fight against this second option that the European Union will deploy, starting in 2020, drones charged to go to measure directly at the exit of the chimneys of the ships when alongside the respect of the legislation in force in North Europe.

Europe authority will use drones to drive vessel pollution air controls

The shipping industry has so far managed to escape the ecological pressure because far from the eyes of the citizen on a daily basis. By comparison, since 2005, road diesel has been 200 times less polluting for sulfur than the heavy fuel oil used by ships traveling the globe. The number of merchant (excluding fishing) vessels operating on heavy fuel oil is estimated at 50,000 worldwide in 2018 for only 150 ships equipped with cleaner engines (almost exclusively fuel LNG).


Norway : 03rd of may 2018

The Norwegian Parliament voted on May 3, 2018 the zero-emission ranking from 2026 of the two fjords Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. Integrated since 2005 in the list of outstanding natural sites of Unesco, these two very deep fjords are major tourist attractions in Norway with visitors transported mainly by sea, aboard ferries and local pleasure boats or cruising liners.


Statistics 2017 :

Studies have produced the following results for ship-induced pollution:

- 55% of the polluting discharges come from their phase at the quay,

- 34% of port operations,

- 11% of polluting discharges come from their phase of pure maritime transport.

The issue of the spread of "Cold Ironing" in all the ports of the world thus makes sense when reading these figures.



Related articles :

A "scrubber", what is it ?

"Cold Ironing", what is this ?

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