EU makes one concession too many on ships’ data

February 26, 2019

The European Commission has published proposals to revise its reporting rules on ships’ emissions data which are aimed at enabling those who charter ships to pick the cleanest and most efficient vessels. T&E has welcomed the proposals, but says the Commission is wrong to concede on the need to report cargo data.

Despite being the slowest means of goods transport, shipping has remained competitive with land and air transport by charging low prices, often at the cost of widespread marine and air pollution. Improvements to ship technology mean there is now a big discrepancy between vessels, but the data that indicates which are best on emissions and fuel efficiency have traditionally not been available to those chartering ships and to policymakers.

The EU agreed a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system in 2015, which requires from 2018 ship owners and operators to annually monitor and report CO2 emissions for vessels larger than 5,000 gross tonnage (GT) calling at European ports. A central element of the scheme was that this data, aggregated, would be published annually by the Commission for each ship. Since the start of this year, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has run its own fuel consumption reporting scheme which contains less stringent and less transparent provisions. Both schemes are obligatory for ships, and the shipping industry and the IMO has called for the two to be harmonised.

The Commission’s proposal is therefore in response to calls to bring the EU’s MRV rules in line with the IMO’s scheme. In doing so  the Commission made clear that CO2 emissions data on all ships using EU ports must remain in the public domain, even though the IMO does not publish the ship  fuel consumption data that is collected globally. By way of explanation the Commission says the objective of the current EU legislation is for emissions data ‘to stimulate the uptake of energy efficiency solutions and inform future policy making decisions’.

However, the Commission yielded to pressure to remove the obligation on ships to collect and report cargo data, which is essential for assessing the real-world performance of ships. The IMO system exempts shipping companies from collecting data about their cargo. This effectively means the published data only gives information on emissions, not on efficiency, as fuel consumption and emissions will be impossible to  relate to the amount of cargo carried.

T&E’s shipping officer Faig Abbasov said: ‘Those who charter ships need to be able to identify the most efficient ships, in order to keep their costs and climate-changing emissions to a minimum. The EU has measures to tackle emissions from shipping as part of its strategy to tackle climate change, but these reduction measures won’t be worth the paper they’re written on without accurate published data. And without cargo data, the market will not be able to differentiate an empty ship from an efficient one, thus removing the incentive to improve ships’ efficiency and emissions.’

Ship owners are aware of how much a ship costs to run, but a large part of the shipping market involves ships on charter, and a business wanting to transport goods by sea cannot at present know which vessels are the most fuel-efficient and the cleanest.