Shipping in Europe causes around a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions at sea. A report now confirms that there have already been improvements in the sector. But there is still a lot to be done.Not only traffic on the roads is a major burden on the environment, but shipping is also a major contributor to global warming. The real environmental impact of maritime transport in Europe has now been recorded for the first time in a report by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA). Accordingly, air emissions, air pollution, oil leaks, the discharge of sewage, plastic, underwater noise, and the transport of living organisms to other bodies of water were examined. According to the report, ships were responsible for 13.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by traffic in the EU in 2018. Road traffic was the largest polluter with 71 percent, air traffic accounted for 14.4 percent of emissions. All modes of transport must become more sustainable, smarter, and more resilient, said Adina Vălean, EU Commissioner for Transport, according to a communication. That also includes shipping.
Emissions are a challenge
Ships play a major role as a means of transport between EU countries – for both passenger and freight transport. 77 percent of European foreign trade and 35 percent of all trade – are by sea. Experts estimate that this will increase even more in the coming decades. “EU maritime transport is facing a crucial decade in transition to a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable sector,” the report said. Emissions are a challenge: In total, ships that docked in ports in the EU and the European Economic Area in 2018 caused around 140 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. That was around 18 percent of all CO2 emissions caused by shipping worldwide this year. The emission of sulfur dioxide was 16 percent of the global SO2 emissions from international shipping. “Although maritime transport has improved its environmental footprint in recent years, it still faces major challenges in decarbonizing and reducing pollution,” said the Commissioner.
Environmentally friendly drive types and energy sources in focus
One possible solution is to switch to more environmentally friendly types of drive and energy sources such as biofuels, batteries, hydrogen or ammonia. Shore power supply, in which ships switch off their engines and connect them to a power source, could also represent a clean source of energy in sea and inland waterways ports, the report said. Another challenge is the underwater noise that ships generate and can affect marine life in different ways. Maritime transport is estimated to have contributed to underwater noise levels in EU waters more than doubling between 2014 and 2019.In addition, international shipping means that species are transported into bodies of water in which they are not native and can affect the ecosystems there. “The report clearly shows that maritime transport in Europe and the entire international shipping community has an urgent responsibility to step up their efforts to reduce the ecological footprint of this sector,” said EEA chief Hans Bruyninckx.