A provisional agreement reached on early Thursday morning, 23 March, between the European Parliament and Council negotiators sets up a fuel standard for ships to steer the EU maritime sector towards the uptake of renewable and low-carbon fuels and decarbonisation.

The deal is to allow for big ships to gradually reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Container ships and passenger ships at major EU ports are to use shore power as of 2030 and ships’ fuel mix is to have at least two per cent of specific renewable fuels as of 2034.

Ships will have to cut emissions by two per cent as of 2025 and by eighty per cent as of 2050, to help the EU become climate neutral.

Also read: SWZ|Maritime’s March 2023 issue: The energy transition depends on the engineers

Cutting maritime emissions

During the talks, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) succeeded in ensuring that ships will have to gradually reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by cutting the amount of GHG in the energy they use (below 2020 level of 91.16 grammes of CO2 per MJ) by two per cent as of 2025, six per cent as of 2030, 14.5 per cent as of 2035, 31 per cent as of 2040, 62 per cent as of 2045 and eighty per cent as of 2050.

This would apply to ships above a gross tonnage of 5000, which are in principle responsible for ninety per cent of CO2 emissions, and to all energy used on board in or between EU ports, as well as to fifty per cent of energy used on voyages where the departure or arrival port is outside of the EU or in EU outermost regions.

MEPs also ensured that the Commission will review the rules by 2028 to decide whether to extend emission-cutting requirements to smaller ships or to increase the share of the energy used by ships coming from non-EU countries.

Also read: ICS wants ‘Fund and Reward’ system to get to 2050 net zero

Renewable fuels usage target

The deal gives more credits, as an incentive, in the form of offsetting emissions to those shipowners who use renewable fuels of non-biological origin (RFNBO) from 2025 to 2034. The deal also set a two per cent renewable fuels usage target as of 2034 if the Commission reports that in 2031 RFNBO amount to less than one per cent in fuel mix.

Also read: ‘Shipping needs certainty and quota when it comes to renewable fuels’

Plugging ships into shore power

According to the preliminary agreement, container ships and passenger ships will be obliged to use on-shore power supply for all electricity needs while moored at the quayside in major EU ports as of 2030. It will also apply to the rest of EU ports as of 2035, if these ports have an on-shore power supply. This should significantly reduce air pollution in ports.

Certain exemptions, such as staying at port for less than two hours, using own zero-emission technology or making a port call due to unforeseen circumstances or emergencies, will apply.

Forcing other to move too

‘This agreement sets out by far the world’s most ambitious path to maritime decarbonisation,’ says EP rapporteur Jörgen Warborn (EPP, SE). ‘No other global power has drafted such a comprehensive framework to tackle maritime emissions. This is truly ground-breaking. This regulation will force others to move too. Europe will do its fair share, but European citizens and companies should not foot the bill for the entire world’s climate efforts.’

He adds: ‘We guarantee the sector long-term rules and predictability, so that they dare to invest. Shipping companies and ports can focus their resources on delivering the greatest climate benefits and the most value for money. This protects the jobs of seafarers, dockworkers and workers in the export industry, and sets an example for other countries to follow.’

Also read: EU plans to earmark ETS revenues for shipping’s decarbonisation

Next steps

The informal deal on sustainable maritime fuels rules still needs to be approved by the Council Committee of Permanent Representatives and Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, and then the Parliament and Council as a whole.