12 December 2017
EU Initiatives To Decarbonise Maritime Transport And Port Activities

By Rémi Mayet, Deputy Head of Unit, Ports and Inland Navigation, DG for Mobility and Transport, European Commission
Autumn 2015


As 74 pct. of all goods to or from the EU zone are carried by ship, the European ports are essential to Europe's growth. The impact assessment of the Commission's proposal for a regulation of the port sector - currently in the legislative procedure in the European Parliament and the Council - shows that for every additional one million tonnes of cargo handled in a port, an average of 300 new jobs are created in the port and its surrounding area.

According to the International Transport Forum, the amount of cargo handled in European ports is expected to nearly triple by 2050. In 2017, all main ports in North Europe and Far East will receive at least one megaship (>18,000 TEU) every day. These figures challenge not only port capacity but also our EU decarbonisation, environmental and air quality goals, ports being often - not only in close proximity to dense urban areas - but completely integrated in the city surrounding them.

The apparent trade-off between economy and environment is far from a one-to-one affair. Technologies that reduce the use of fossil fuels, for example, have the dual impact of promoting economic efficiency of ships, while reducing the sectors' environmental footprint. We need a strong focus on green innovation within the maritime sector, also in order for the sector to stay competitive in the long run.

Examples of such innovation can be found in the ability of cranes to store the energy released when lowering a container, or in the use of engine heat in vessels to regulate the temperature on board. Implied here is also the obvious fact, that when we talk about the greening of the maritime transport sector, it is important to look at not only the vessels actually moving the cargo but also at the port side. Intelligent port management must combine measures to reduce emissions, energy consumption and costs and develop innovative mobility concepts, renewable energies and the interlinking of energygenerating plants and consumer plants to promote efficient use of resources.

This approach is aptly illustrated by the current move to greener vessel fuels, such as LNG (Liquid Natural Gas). On the one side, it requires shipping lines to invest in the appropriate equipment, while on the other, comprehensive bunkering systems must be installed on-shore. The same can be said for other measures such as shore side electricity supply for moored vessels or efficient and environmentally safe disposal of scrubber residue.

At the level of the European Commission, we work concretely with the industry, port authorities, experts and national governments on five fronts to green and decarbonise ports and shipping: governance, emissions regulation, infrastructure, innovation and financial incentives:

  • Governance: If local initiatives are to be effective, it is important that not only the port authority or the managing body of the port is pulling in a greener direction. The port community as a whole - e.g. terminal operators, shipping companies etc. - need to be behind the project. With a view to underpin this kind of collaboration, the Commission, in the proposed ports regulation, has included provisions for regular consultation among the many stakeholders of a port. It is the ambition that these consultations will act as forums for, inter alia, the development of a shared green agenda for the port as a whole.
  • Emission regulations: Technical regulations limiting emissions from marine fuels play a key role. The limit on the sulphur content of 0.1 pct. in marine fuel has entered into force since 2015 in the SECA areas (Sulphur Emission Control Areas), following from the implementation of the IMO’s MARPOL-convention. To accompany these changes, the Commission has established the European Sustainable Shipping Forum (ESSF). It brings together Member States and maritime industry stakeholders in order to exchange best practices and coordinate, while providing the opportunity to discuss various issues that may arise as early in the implementation process as possible.
  • Infrastructure: Regarding infrastructure - within ports and for hinterland connections - the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) with a budget of €23 billion for transport projects towards 2020 provides tremendous opportunities to build a more sustainable Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). It can provide grants or financial instruments (debt or equity sharing instruments) for projects to transfer goods to greener transport modes, such as shipping, rail and inland waterways, and developing and implementing green technologies. The lack of appropriate infrastructure is a major market failure which prevents viable alternative fuels - the famous chicken and egg problem. To redress it we use CEF to fund LNG bunkering or on-shore power supply facilities. The goal of the Directive on alternative fuel infrastructure is that such facilities are available at all core TEN-T ports by 2025.
  • Innovation: CEF can also support innovation. The next call for proposals due to be published in November 2015 provides opportunities to fund pilot deployment (real life trials) of innovative transport/energy solutions in ports and test the appetite for synergy actions between the transport and energy sector in ports - ports can be major actors of the transition towards more renewable energies (wind and tidal energies). This call comes on top of the Horizon 2020 programme, which is the EU's tool for financing research and demonstration and offer plenty of possibilities to promote the green innovation agenda in the ports and maritime sector. We have set up a 'port innovation contact group' to help define a common agenda and gather and disseminate results.
  • Financial incentives: In addition to providing financial support, we also promote the application of differentiated charges by ports for environmentally friendly ships. We work with the port and shipping industry to draw up common guidelines identifying good practices. The aim is to enable ports to reward shipping lines implementing green technology, ahead of legislation, and encourage operators to opt for energy efficient short sea shipping, using common and well documented data, definitions, tools and methods.

The years to come hold great potential for the greening of a sector that is so economically important for Europe. Determination is needed from all actors involved. The Commission encourages the Member States and the investors to join this effort. The European Fund for Strategic Investments created last July at the initiative of President Juncker provides a crucial tool to boost and channel private investments to European projects contributing to growth and jobs but also to decarbonise transport.