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EU Safety Agency Sets Sights on Ocean Shipping Pollution

The European Maritime Safety Agency warned in a report this week that emissions from ocean shipping need to be greatly reduced if Europe wants to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

“Maritime transport activity in the EU is an essential element of global trade and the economy and is therefore highly globalized,” the executive summary of the “European Maritime Transport Environmental Report 2021” said. “In the EU, it carries 77 percent of external trade and 35 percent of intra-EU trade. Although the sector brings substantial economic and social benefits to the EU, it also has an impact on the environment and the health of EU citizens.”

According to the report, maritime transport in the European Union (EU) is responsible for about 13.5 percent of transport emissions, behind aviation at 14.4 percent and road transport at 71 percent.

While EU emissions from domestic navigation have declined 26 percent since 1990, it still accounts for about 16 million tons of CO2. According to the report, this decrease responds to EU standards related to fleet renewals and energy efficiency introduced in 2003.

Still, ocean shipping remains a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and other dangerous pollutants to water and air that are harmful to terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

EU ports handled close to 4 billion tons of goods, accounting for around half of all goods by weight traded between the EU and the UK, and the rest of the world, the report noted. These numbers are set to slightly decrease in 2020 because of the pandemic, in which, during the first half of the year, the number of ships calling at EU ports declined compared with the same period in 2019.

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“Given the global nature of shipping, and the fact that pollution crosses borders and regions, addressing the maritime transport environmental impact further requires action at an international level, in accordance with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and EU environmental standards for maritime transport,” the European Maritime Safety Agency said. “Continued action to reduce its environmental footprint is needed for the sector to play its part in turning Europe into a climate-neutral continent by 2050.”

The agency noted that the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, is the global standard-setting authority for the environmental performance of international shipping. It has, since its foundation, adopted more than 50 international treaties regulating international shipping, of which 40 percent focus on environmental protection.

“Since the late 1990s, the EU has been consistently introducing stricter rules for ships trading in EU waters,” the agency said. “These regulations have contributed to reducing sulfur oxides and carbon dioxide emissions, and oil and other sources of ship pollution.”

A.P. Moller-Maersk last month identified its partner to produce green fuel for its first vessel to operate on carbon neutral methanol and added that in the first quarter of 2024 it will introduce the first in a groundbreaking series of eight large ocean-going container vessels capable of being operated on the fuel.

The vessels will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and have a nominal capacity of approximately 16,000 containers (20-foot equivalent units or TEU). The agreement with HHI includes an option for four additional vessels in 2025. The series will replace older vessels, generating annual CO2 emissions savings of around 1 million tons.

CMA CGM Group initiated a major program last year to build a new class of liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered vessels, as part of its drive to take the shipping industry’s energy transition to the next level.The CMA CGM Jacques Saade, the world’s largest containership powered by LNG, kicked off the initiative with its first LNG bunkering operation in the Port of Rotterdam, which will play a key role in refueling the CMA’s LNG-powered fleet, which operates regular services between Asia and Europe.

EU laws, such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats Directive, also protect the marine environment, aiming to uphold good environmental status standards and to reduce air and other pollution in coastal communities and ports.

To reduce emissions from maritime transport, the European Commission has proposed extending the EU’s carbon market to cover maritime shipping. The proposal will need the agreement of the 27 EU countries plus the European Parliament.