As ships carry passengers and cargo throughout the world, they produce exhaust emissions that have a damaging impact on fragile ecosystems. Finding ways to reduce emissions and make ships greener is an important factor for the future of the marine sector. 

Emission regulations becoming tougher

The shipping industry is responsible for transporting over 95% of all goods traded around the world today. Many ships, like cruise liners and tugs, travel in environmentally sensitive areas. To do so, their engines need to meet very strict emission regulations. 

The continuous monitoring of ship emissions is a critical measurement in global goals of lowering the environmental impact of all industries. With shipping contributing 2.5% of global GHG emissions, vessel operators, owners and clients have an increasing understanding of the needs to control and reduce emissions produced.

The European Parliament’s environment committee has voted to require ships to reduce their emissions and finally pay for their carbon pollution. Green group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the European Commission should follow this cue to propose including ships in the EU carbon market and investing the money raised in greener maritime technology.

They also called for binding targets for shipping companies to reduce the annual average CO2 emissions of all ships when in operation, by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 2018 levels, going further than an original European Commission proposal.

Pollution from ships plying international waters usually escapes countries’ domestic emissions-cutting targets, but the Commission has said the sector must contribute to its trillion-euro push to achieve a “climate neutral” economy by 2050.

Shipping companies are not yet included in the EU emissions trading system (ETS), which obliges factories, power plants and airlines to pay for their pollution. The EU executive plans to add them in 2021 to bring the industry into line with the bloc’s efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

While the UN’s shipping agency has taken action on cutting sulphur emissions from ships, it is still years away from reaching a comprehensive plan for tackling CO2.

The environment committee of the European Parliament also called for the creation of an “Ocean Fund” from 2023 until 2030, financed by revenues from auctioning allowances under the ETS, to make ships more energy-efficient.

“Global maritime emissions are expected to increase by between 50% and 250% by 2050, which isn’t compatible with the long-term climate neutrality objective,” said Swedish lawmaker Jytte Guteland who led talks for the committee on the issue.

The full legislative assembly will vote in September on whether or not to approve the rules. Once parliament has agreed its position, talks will start with the Commission and national governments in the EU Council on the final terms of the funding.

Last year, the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) overtook Ryanair in the top 10 rankings of Europe’s biggest carbon dioxide emitters in 2019, a list still dominated by big coal-fired power plants, according to EU data.

Keeping hazardous greenhouse emissions to a minimum is a top priority. At the same time, it is also important to not sacrifice ship engine performance and propulsion efficiency. To ensure the future viability of their fleets, ship owners and operators need to do everything they can to minimize the carbon footprint of their vessels. They need to constantly reduce NOx and SOemissions to stay ahead of ever stricter legislation as it emerges. This means finding and using alternative fuels while utilizing available technologies to operate the cleanest ships possible.