The predecessor of REMPEC, the Regional Oil Combating Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (ROCC) was established in Malta on 11 December 1976, in order to assist the Mediterranean coastal States in the implementation of the Protocol concerning Co-operation in Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Oil and Other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency (Emergency Protocol) to the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution (Barcelona Convention) . It was the first such Regional Centre in the world, set up within the framework of the Regional Seas Programme of UNEP. Operating on the basis of the decisions of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, the Centre has been administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and is financed by the Mediterranean Trust Fund.
The programme of the activities to be carried out by the Centre and the relevant budget are discussed every two years by the Meetings of REMPEC Focal Points and subsequently submitted for approval and adoption to the Meetings of the Contracting Parties.
The mandate of the Centre was extended in 1987 to include "hazardous substances other than oil", and in 1989 the Contracting Parties approved the new objectives and functions of the Centre and changed its name to the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC).
Objectives and functions of REMPEC were further modified in November 2001 in order to reflect the new role of the Centre envisaged by the adoption of the new Protocol concerning Cooperation in Preventing Pollution from Ships and, in Cases of Emergency, Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea (Prevention and Emergency Protocol).
In the last 27 years, the main achievements and the new challenges of the Centre have been many.
REMPEC is based in Malta and hosted by the government of Malta. Its staff enjoys the status of the United Nations civil servants.
In 2001 REMPEC started the Internship Programme that is particularly designed for students undertaking research in the field of prevention of marine pollution from sea-based sources, as well as of preparedness for and response to accidental marine pollution.