The Dutch shipowners’ association KVNR is ‘generally positive’ about the recommendations of the Advisory Board on Nitrogen Problems chaired by Johan Remkes to reduce nitrogen emissions from shipping. However, KNVR Managing Director Annet Koster does see ‘a number of elements that still need to be clarified’.

The Advisory Board (Adviescollege Stikstofproblematiek), consisting of various experts, is to assist the Dutch Cabinet in its search for solutions to nitrogen emissions. The chairman is former Minister Remkes. According to the KVNR, the recommendations made are in line with the national Green Deal, which contains agreements between Government and the shipping industry on sustainability. Koster does see a need for some clarification, which she would like to discuss with the Dutch Cabinet.

As of 1 January 2021, the North and Baltic Sea will become a NECA (NOx Emission Control Area) in addition to being a SECA (SOx Emission Control Area). This means that seagoing vessels in that area built after that date will have to comply with stricter requirements regarding the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx). ‘This measure should reduce nitrogen emissions by more than seventy per cent compared to the current generation of engines,’ says Nick Lurkin, KVNR’s Climate and Environment Advisor. Because ships have an average lifespan of fifteen to twenty years, this is a long term process.

Level playing field requires enforcement

The shipowners’ association pleads for a solid enforcement policy in the SECA area to prevent unfair competition. Koster: ‘It would be unacceptable for Dutch shipowners who invest in cleaner ships to start lagging behind their foreign competitors who do not.’ That is why the KVNR is in favour of the Remkes Committee’s advice to make a firm commitment to maintaining a nitrogen zone in the North Sea. Koster continues: ‘Economic gain by violating environmental rules is an absolute no-go for us.’

The Remkes Committee calls for the extension of the SECA area to all European waters, but according to the KVNR this does not make much progress. ‘The extension of a nitrogen zone to the Mediterranean Sea, for example, has no effect whatsoever on nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands, because the Mediterranean Sea is simply too far away from the Netherlands. The nitrogen zone across the entire North Sea, as it will enter in 2021, will therefore already be sufficient,’ explains Lurkin.

KVNR opposes Emissions Trading Scheme

The Remkes Committee’s third recommendation is the introduction of a global levy on nitrogen oxide emissions from seagoing vessels. The Dutch government should plead for this at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to the Advisory Board.

The KVNR stresses that a proposal is already on the table at the IMO for the introduction of a global surcharge on fuel that feeds a large fund to make shipping more sustainable. Initially, the fund was primarily intended as a measure to phase out greenhouse gases, but the shipowners’ association expects that future alternative fuels and energy carriers will also greatly reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, particulate matter and other emissions into the air.

‘A win-win-win-win,’ says Lurkin. The KVNR, together with the Dutch Government and other partners, will continue to work internationally for this global maritime sustainability fund.

Extending the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) to the shipping industry, as mentioned by the Remkes Committee, is not the means to achieve the objective, according to the KVNR. Precisely because shipping is an international sector, it must be tackled globally. This means in the IMO context, states the KVNR, to prevent the nitrogen problem from shifting to the margins of the EU and to really tackle it.

Picture by Mark König.