EU Transport ministers back shipping’s transformation

European Transport Ministers back Brussels' decarbonisation agenda, LNG as a transition fuel and the development of tougher Mediterranean sulphur emission limits . It also backs seafarer training review at IMO and the promotion of the industry to women

European Ministers have approved a joint document and statement concluding support of zero emission shipping and the continued use of LNG as a transition fuel to get the blocs shipping segment to that goal. The Council of Ministers sits alongside the Commission and Parliament to form the legislative triumvirate of the European Union. Its joint statement underscores the work of the Commission, and in particular where the European Green Deal pushes shipping and ports down a decarbonisation or carbon neutral route.

These Council conclusions stress the need for mitigation of shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions at a global level, and notes the work at the IMO in achieving 2015 emission reduction objectives, albeit they are currently stalled due to lack of IMO meetings due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Council also notes and encourages the work to create zero emission vessels in coastal trade around Europe, as well as supporting the need to develop alternative fuels to achieve this goal. It also notes the value of liquid natural gas, which creates greenhouse gases when used, as a fuel for shipping to transition to zero emissions fuels.

Mediterranean sulphur limit

The statement also shows Council support for the ongoing discussions to get a proposal together to designate the Mediterranean Sea a sulphur emission control area.

There has already been work undertaken to assess the viability of the Sea becoming a SECA, thus forcing vessels in the Sea to use fuels with a sulphur content of less than 0.1% rather than the global level which now stands at 0.5%. The ministerial document also suggests consideration of funding the creation of a MED SECA.


The Council statement also notes the value of digitalisation tools in enhancing multimodal transport operations across the European Union, which it says includes the development of autonomous ships, automation, digital certificates, digitalisation of marine administrative processes -including the completion of maritime single window reporting and the assessment of this on a global level. It adds that there needs to be support for work on cyber security across the industry.

Seafarers, both men and women

The Council of ministers report also delves into the issue of influencing the IMO to conduct an ambitious review of the STCW Convention, calling on the European Commission and the blocs individual member states that are members of the IMO to push for a review in response to the increased technological challenges, the demands made on ships crews and the changing skills required of seafarers.

It also recognises the need to ensure that the shipping and other waterborne transport related sectors need their efforts to improve the image and attractiveness of the sector supported, to attract both men and women.

Opatija Declaration

The statement of support by the Council of Ministers follows on from a meeting of the Bloc member Transport Ministers in Opatija, Croatia (which currently holds the rotating EU presidency) earlier this year.

It led to the Opatija Statement: “EU Waterborne Transport Sector – Future outlook: Towards a carbon-neutral, zero accidents, automated and competitive EU Waterborne Transport Sector “

The March 2020 meeting was attending by the IMO secretary-general, the European Community Shipowners Association and other organisation. It provides guidelines for EU member states on the development of maritime policies towards 2030 including the issues of decarbonisation, emissions, training and digitalisation.

The statements of Council support for digitalisation, decarbonisation and for developing future fuels has gained the support of the EU Waterborne Technology Platform, launched in January 2019, which has the task to develop and support the technological competence and competitive edge of the bloc.


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