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Calls to Maltese Government for Action to Reduce Nitrogen Levels in Ship Fuel at Grand Harbour

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Nimrah Khatoon
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BirdLife Malta and the German Nature Biodiversity and Conservation Union (NABU) are joining forces to urge the Maltese government to support efforts within the European Union to lower nitrogen levels in the fuel used by ships. The collaborative initiative seeks to address air pollution concerns and improve the quality of air in sensitive areas, Calls to Maltese Government.

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Alarming Air Pollution Levels

During a press conference held in Senglea, air quality expert Axel Friedrich presented evidence of what he referred to as "dangerously high" levels of air pollution over Grand Harbour. The data revealed that air pollution concentrations significantly escalated when ships were transiting in the port area. Measured levels reached up to 120 micrograms/m3, in stark contrast to the mere 3 micrograms/m3 recorded during periods without marine traffic.

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Health Impact and Concerns

Friedrich emphasized that while daily average concentrations might fall within the limits stipulated by EU regulations, the spikes in exposure during ship transit were still detrimental to human health. The adverse effects of nitrogen dioxide pollution on health are well-documented, with studies indicating that exposure can lead to decreased lung function and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. This makes addressing the issue of paramount importance to safeguard the well-being of individuals, especially those residing in the harbor area, Calls to Maltese Government.

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Existing Measures and Proposed Initiatives

Last year, the International Maritime Organization introduced the Mediterranean Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA), imposing restrictions on the sulfur content of marine vessel diesel used in Mediterranean coastal regions. While this represents a significant step, BirdLife Malta and NABU believe that further steps should be taken. They propose extending similar restrictions to nitrogen emissions from ship fuel, aligning with the European Commission's commitment to reducing nitrogen dioxide concentration for the sake of human health.

Supporting a Healthier Future

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Given Malta's status as one of the largest shipping registries in the Mediterranean, the NGOs assert that the country should play an active role in supporting initiatives that prioritize health and environmental well-being. By advocating for the establishment of a Nitrogen Emission Control Area in the Mediterranean, Malta would contribute to the broader goal of enhancing air quality and mitigating pollution from shipping activities.

Holistic Approaches for Improved Air Quality

Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife's Head of Conservation, stressed the need for multifaceted approaches to address air quality concerns from shipping. While the upcoming ship-to-shore power supply network and the planned implementation of SECA are positive steps, he believes that further initiatives, such as a Nitrogen Emission Control Area, should be embraced and advocated for.

Mediterranean-Wide Effort

BirdLife Malta and NABU are part of the "Together Against Air Pollution from Ships" initiative, which aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of shipping activities in the Mediterranean region. By working collaboratively, these organizations strive to encourage solutions that can make a tangible difference in mitigating air pollution and ensuring a healthier environment for all.

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