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Climate Action

Reducing emissions from the shipping sector

International shipping is a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU supports global action to tackle these emissions and has put in place EU-wide data collection measures.


Maritime transport emits around 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (3rd IMO GHG study).

These emissions are projected to increase significantly if mitigation measures are not put in place swiftly. According to the 3rd IMO GHG study, shipping emissions could under a business-as-usual scenario increase between 50% and 250% by 2050, undermining the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

At the same time, there is significant untapped potential to reduce shipping emissions cost-effectively. Many technical and operational measures, such as slow steaming, weather routing, contra-rotating propellers and propulsion efficiency devices, can deliver more fuel savings than the investment required.

Although a global approach to address GHG emissions from international shipping led by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) would be the most effective and thus preferable, the relatively slow progress in the IMO has triggered the EU to take action.

EU strategy

Shipping emissions represent around 13% of the overall EU greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector (2015).

In 2013, the Commission set out a strategy towards reducing GHG emissions from the shipping industry.

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.

The contribution of the shipping sector to emission reductions consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement remains an important issue in the EU.

The recent amendment to the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) Directive, by Directive (EU) 2018/410 of the European Parliament and the Council, emphasises the need to act on shipping emissions as well as all other sectors of the economy.

The Directive also states that the Commission should regularly review IMO action and calls for action to address shipping emissions from the IMO or the EU to start from 2023, including preparatory work and stakeholder consultation.

On 14 July 2021, the European Commission adopted a series of legislative proposals setting out how it intends to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, including the intermediate target of an at least 55% net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The package proposes to revise several pieces of EU climate legislation, including the EU ETS, Effort Sharing Regulation, transport and land use legislation, setting out in real terms the ways in which the Commission intends to reach EU climate targets under the European Green Deal.

First step: monitor, report and verify CO2 emissions

From 1 January 2018, large ships over 5 000 gross tonnage loading or unloading cargo or passengers at ports in the European Economic Area (EEA) are to monitor and report their related CO2 emissions and other relevant information.

Monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of information shall be done in conformity with Regulation 2015/757 (as amended by Delegated Regulation 2016/2071).

Four other legal acts are also relevant:

Main obligations for companies eligible under the EU MRV Regulation:

  • Monitoring: From 1 January 2018, companies shall – in line with their respective monitoring plans – monitor for each of their ships CO2 emissions, fuel consumption and other parameters, such as distance travelled, time at sea and cargo carried on a per voyage basis, so as to gather annual data into an emissions report submitted to an accredited MRV shipping verifier.
  • Emissions report: From 2019, by 30 April of each year, companies shall, through THETIS MRV, submit to the Commission and to the States in which those ships are registered (‘flag States’) a satisfactorily verified emissions report for each ship that has performed maritime transport activities in the European Economic Area in the previous reporting period (calendar year).
  • Document of compliance: From 2019, by 30 June of each year, companies shall ensure that all their ships that have performed activities in the previous reporting period and are visiting ports in the European Economic Area carry on board a document of compliance issued by THETIS MRV. This obligation might be subject to inspections by Member States' authorities.

Every year, the Commission publishes a report to inform the public about the CO2 emissions and energy efficiency information of the monitored fleet:

Global action

IMO Data Collection System

Following the adoption of the EU MRV Regulation, the IMO established an IMO Data Collection System.

The system requires owners of large ships (above 5 000 gross tonnage) engaged in international shipping to report information on fuel consumption of their ships to the flag States of those ships. The flag States then report aggregated data to the IMO, which shall produce an annual summary report to the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee.

The IMO system entered into force in March 2018 and the collection of fuel consumption data started on 1 January 2019.

As a result, from 2019, ships calling into EEA ports will have to report under both the EU MRV Regulation and the IMO Data Collection System.

The EU MRV Regulation (Article 22) anticipated this situation as it foresees that the Commission should, in the event of an international agreement on a global MRV system for shipping emissions, review the regulation and, if appropriate, propose amendments to ensure alignment with that international agreement.

In February 2019, the European Commission made a proposal to amend the EU MRV Regulation to take appropriate account of the global data collection system.

Initial IMO greenhouse gas strategy

After considerable efforts over recent years, the IMO agreed in April 2018 on an initial greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy.

In line with the internationally agreed temperature goals under the Paris Agreement, the strategy includes objectives to

  • reduce total annual GHG emissions from shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels
  • pursue efforts to phase them out as soon as possible in this century.

However, short-, mid- and long-term emission reduction measures, as well as research and innovation, necessary to achieve the objectives under the strategy remain to be developed and agreed.

In October 2018, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee agreed on a programme of follow-up actions to implement the initial strategy, with timelines for consideration and agreement on GHG reduction measures:

  • Short-term measures are to be decided between 2020 and 2023.
  • Proposals for mid- and long-term measures are to be considered, without mentioning the timelines for agreement.

The strategy will be revised in 2023, taking into account

  • data from the IMO Data Collection System
  • other data, such as reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

EU support to IMO energy efficiency project

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

As part of the 4-year project, Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres have been set up 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 less developed countries.

This will also support the implementation of the internationally agreed energy efficiency rules and standards – Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP).


Strategy on maritime transport emissions

Brexit readiness


Guidance/best practices documents elaborated with MRV shipping experts


Frequently Asked Questions on the implementation of the MRV shipping Regulation

These Frequently Asked Questions aim to assist MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification) companies, verifiers and other stakeholders to implement the European Union MRV shipping legislation. It requires ships carrying out maritime transport activities to or from EEA ports to monitor and report information including verified data on their CO2 emissions from 1st of January 2018.

The legal framework for these obligations is established under Regulation (EU) 2015/757 on monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport, (the MRV Shipping Regulation) which has been amended by Delegated Regulation 2016/2072 and it is to be read in conjunction with Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/2071 and Implementing Regulations (EU) 2016/1927 and 2016/1928.

This document was prepared by DG CLIMA and does not commit the European Commission. Only the Court of Justice of the European Union is competent to authoritatively interpret the Union law.