Illustration of a blue ship with lots of smoke

Shipping is one of the fastest growing sources of transport greenhouse gas emissions, and is also a major source of air pollution causing health problem, acid rain and eutrophication. Like aviation, the sector's international emissions were not explicitly mentioned in the Paris climate deal. The UN global regulator the IMO needs to act now while the EU in parallel needs to include shipping in its 2030 reduction commitment. T&E works, together with other members of the Clean Shipping Coalition, to reduce the air pollution and climate impacts of shipping globally and in Europe.

What's happening?

For several years, the EU has indicated it would take regional action to reduce shipping GHG emissions, if no global agreement can be reached through the IMO by the end of 2011. However, on 1 October 2012, the Transport and Climate Commissioners announced that they would first propose a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system to provide data on shipping emissions based on fuel consumption, but didn’t commit on any concrete measure to cut CO2 from ships. Read our reaction on this decision.

The EU regulation on MRV which was finally agreed in 2014, will require ship operators to publicly report three metrics to measure the environmental performance of ships: the theoretical energy performance of the ship known as the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI); its real-world fuel consumption; and its energy efficiency, that is, the amount of fuel divided by the amount of cargo. The more cargo a ship can carry using the same amount of fuel, the more efficient and cheaper to run it is. The publication of ships’ real energy efficiency will provide shipping users in Europe and worldwide with transparent data to identify the most efficient ships and practices. This can trigger a virtuous cycle of increased competition among operators, which will enable fuel savings and emissions reductions. This measure is a stepping stone for an eventual measure to actually require emissions reductions, which is what is urgently needed.

As far as air pollution from shipping is concerned, on 29 October 2012 the Council formally adopted the revision of the EU Directive limiting the sulphur content of fuels used by ships in EU seas. From January 2015, ships are only allowed to use fuels with a maximum of 0.1% sulphur content, down from 1.5% previously permitted in the North Sea, Baltic Sea and English Channel. They have to either use cleaner fuels, which are more expensive, or install abatement technologies such as scrubbers. Read our briefing on the issue. In parallel, ships sailing in EU waters will be allowed to use fuels with a maximum of 0.5% sulphur content from 1 January 2020.