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Maritime Emissions in Limbo between EU and IMF

Despite issues of maritime security (piracy on the high seas of the Indian Ocean) and of safety (Costa Concordia and crew member casualties), emissions from maritime operations stay on the agenda of European Commission’s Transports Directorate General as well as with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) whilst greenhouse gas from maritime operations increases at short pace.

European Commission put forward a legislative proposal to establish an EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying (MRV) emissions from large ships using EU ports. This would implement the first step in the strategy (issued in 2011).

The Commission proposes that the MRV system apply to shipping activities carried out from 1 January 2018. To become law, the proposal requires approval by the European Parliament and Council.

The proposed EU system of MRV for shipping emissions is designed to contribute to building an international system. First steps in this direction have already been taken at the IMO, with active support from the EU and partner countries. By yielding further insights into the sector’s potential to reduce emissions, an MRV system will also provide new opportunities to agree on efficiency standards for existing ships.

The proposal would create an EU-wide legal framework for collecting and publishing verified annual data on CO2 emissions from all large ships (over 5 000 gross tons) that use EU ports, irrespective of where the ships are registered.
Ship owners would have to monitor and report the verified amount of CO2 emitted by their large ships on voyages to, from and between EU ports. Owners would also be required to provide certain other information, such as data to determine the ships’ energy efficiency.

A document of compliance issued by an independent verifier would have to be carried on board ships and would be subject to inspection by Member State authorities.

Focus on GHG at IMO

When computing emissions was still a hype, in 2007, international shipping was estimated to have contributed about 2.7% to the global emissions of carbon dioxide (recent measurements show at least a half percent increase).  IMO has adopted mandatory technical and operational energy efficiency measures which will significantly reduce the amount of CO2 emissions from international shipping.  The growth of world trade in the future represents a challenge to meeting a target for emissions required to achieve stabilization in global temperatures and so IMO continues to work on the development of market-based measures as a complimentary means of achieving the required target for emissions.

Up to COP19 in Warsaw last year, maritime emissions encountered a serious backdrop.

IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee has been considering as an important part of its agenda actions to address greenhouse gas emission from ships engaged in international trade. At the last assembly within its Headquarters in London IMO had the participation of more than 800 delegates, 106 Member States, 4 United Nations bodies, 8 intergovernmental organizations and 48 non-governmental organizations. MEPC 65 – the latest working group on GHG – continued its work on further developing technical and operational measures relating to energy-efficiency measures for ships, following the entry into force, on 1 January 2013, of the new chapter 4 of MARPOL Annex VI, which includes requirements mandating the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), for all ships.

MEPC 65, in noting the importance of enhancing energy efficiency and reducing fuel consumption with subsequent reductions of CO2 emissions and other pollutants emitted to air from ships, considered further measures. These include the use of a phased approach to implementation, with the focus of initial work being on data collection, as a basis for future technical work. Eventually the working group promoted the Resolution on Promotion of Technical Co-operation and Transfer of Technology relating to the Improvement of Energy Efficiency of Ships.

Global Action

The European Union and its Member States have a strong preference for a global approach to reducing GHG emissions from international shipping led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This should include the use of global market-based measures (MBMs).

Considerable efforts have been made over recent years, within both the IMO and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to reach such an agreement. In 2011 IMO made progress by adopting the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which sets compulsory energy efficiency standards for new ships, and the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), a management tool for ship owners.
However, the international discussions have yet to bring agreement on global MBMs or other instruments that would cut GHG emissions from the international maritime transport sector as a whole, including existing ships.

Issue of NOx reduction

The Marine Environment Protection Committee of IMO in 2013 reached an agreement in principle to postpone the international NOx emissions limits from 2016 to 2021 (Platt). The IMO decision needs to be confirmed by the vote of all parties of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of Ships (MARPOL).Shipping NOx emissions are regulated as part of MARPOL, which introduces engine standards for new ships. The standards will be introduced gradually. The most stringent standard will go into effect for ships built after 2016, when sailing in nitrogen oxide emission control areas.If the emission standards are not postponed until 2021, ship engines will have to comply with the new standards beginning in 2016 by emitting 80% less nitrogen oxide than current vessels. Recently the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam opposed this decision that does not comply with the sustainability policies of the two.

Sulphur emissions and dumping are two more issues to be covered in nearest future.


Emissions from the global shipping industry amount to around 1 billion tonnes a year, accounting for 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions and 4% of the EU’s total emissions. Without action, these emissions are expected to more than double by 2050. Maritime emissions are not traded in the ETS (EU’s Emission Trading Scheme).

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