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Reducing emissions from the shipping sector

The EU is calling for a global approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping – a large and growing source of emissions. As a first step, large ships using EU ports will be from 2018 required to report their verified annual emissions and other relevant information.

Port of Oakland, California, USA© Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Digital Vision

Maritime transport emits around 1000 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (3rd IMO GHG study).

Shipping emissions are predicted to increase between 50% and 250% by 2050 – depending on future economic and energy developments.

This is not compatible with the internationally agreed goal of keeping global temperature increase to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, which requires worldwide emissions to be at least halved from 1990 levels by 2050.

Untapped potential

Ships' energy consumption and CO2 emissions could be reduced by up to 75% by applying operational measures and implementing existing technologies (2nd IMO GHG study).

Many of these measures are cost-effective and offer net benefits, as reduced fuel bills ensure the pay-back of any operational or investment costs.

Further reductions could be achieved by implementing new innovative technologies.

Towards global action

The EU and its Member States have a strong preference for a global approach led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as this will be most effective.

Considerable efforts to agree such an approach have been made over recent years within both the IMO and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In 2011, the IMO adopted the

  • Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which sets compulsory energy efficiency standards for new ships, and
  • Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP), a management tool for ship owners.

However, international discussions have yet to bring agreement on global market-based measures or other instruments that would cut emissions from the sector as a whole, including existing ships.

Recently, new ideas on technical and operational measures have been proposed, with a perspective of agreeing on a global data collection (or monitoring, reporting and verification) system as the next step.

See leaflet Time for international action on CO2 emissions from shippingpdf(188 kB) Choose translations of the previous link 

EU support to IMO energy efficiency project

The European Commission contributes €10 million funding to an EC-IMO energy efficiency project.

The 4-year project aims to establish Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres in 5 regions: Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

Through technical assistance and capacity-building, the centres will promote the uptake of low carbon technologies and operations in maritime transport in the less developed countries in the respective region.

This will also support the implementation of the internationally agreed energy efficiency rules and standards (EEDI and SEEMP).

EU strategy

The Commission's 2011 White Paper on transport suggests that the EU's CO2 emissions from maritime transport should be cut by at least 40% from 2005 levels by 2050, and if feasible by 50%. However, international shipping is not covered by the EU's current emissions reduction targets.

In 2013, the Commission set out a strategypdf(97 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  for progressively integrating maritime emissions into the EU's policy for reducing its domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The strategy consists of 3 consecutive steps:

  • Monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from large ships using EU ports
  • Greenhouse gas reduction targets for the maritime transport sector
  • Further measures, including market-based measures, in the medium to long term.

First step: monitor and report emissions

The MRV Regulation adopted in 2015 creates an EU-wide legal framework for the monitoring, reporting and verification of CO2 emissions from maritime transport. It also helps the EU generate momentum for the best possible outcome in the international discussions.

The Regulation requires large ships (over 5 000 gross tonnes) calling at EU ports from 1 January 2018 to collect and later publish verified annual data on CO2 emissions and other relevant information.

Companies operating large ships visiting EU ports (irrespective of where they are registered) will have to:

  • monitor and annually report the verified amount of CO2 emitted on journeys to, from and between EU ports and also when in EU port;
  • monitor and annually report additional parameters, such as distance, time at sea and cargo carried, enabling to determine the ships' average energy efficiency;
  • submit to the Commission an emission report containing externally verified annual aggregated data, which will then be publicly available.

When visiting EU ports, ships must carry a document of compliance issued by an accredited MRV verifier. This might be subject to inspections by Member State authorities.

Reduced emissions and costs

The MRV system is estimated to cut CO2 emissions from the journeys covered by up to 2% compared with a 'business as usual' situation, according to the Commission's impact assessment.

The system would also reduce net costs to owners by up to €1.2 billion per year by 2030.

In addition, it will provide useful insights into the performance of individual ships, their associated operational costs and potential resale value. This will benefit ship owners who will be better equipped to take investment decisions and obtain finance.

Implementation of MRV Regulation

The MRV Regulation foresees a number of implementing and delegated acts paving the way for its proper and timely implementation.

These aim to

  • help companies fulfil their monitoring obligations in a harmonised way
  • further define verification rules
  • set up an accreditation process for MRV verifiers.

The Commission has set up an expert consultation process as part of the preparatory phase leading to the adoption of these legal acts end of 2016.

This is expected to deliver a set of recommendations on:

  • further defining technical rules for cargo monitoring for "other ships types" (Implementing Act)
  • setting additional rules on verification and accreditation (Delegated Act)
  • assessing the need for updating Annexes I & II in the light of international rules and standards or scientific and technical developments and, if needed, recommend possible changes (Delegated Act, if required)
  • setting relevant monitoring and reporting templates and technical rules for submission, applicable to companies and to verifiers (Implementing Acts)

Expert groups

As part of the consultation process, two expert groups have been set up under the umbrella of the European Sustainable Shipping Forum (ESSF):

The groups have held 5 meetings between July 2015 and spring 2016.