The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published a report on emissions from shipping, setting out ways to measure and reduce the sector's carbon footprint.
The document provides an overview of methodologies for estimating air emissions from shipping, describes technological solutions and analyses policy options for reducing carbon emissions and air pollution.
Maritime transport causes about 4 per cent of the world's man-made CO2 emissions. There is no regulation of international maritime transport emissions yet, but this is currently under discussion in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
In respect of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, shipping is the most environmentally-friendly mode of transport. However, if no action is taken, it is estimated that emissions from ships could possibly treble by 2050. At present, around 50,000 merchant ships transport 90 per cent of global goods.
Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire-Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This JRC report underlines why pollution from shipping, like that from many other sources, needs to be reduced both to help tackle climate change and to prevent severe damage to human health. It also discusses options for how a combination of technological innovation and market-based policies could deliver the reductions needed."
Although maritime transport has the lowest ratio of CO2 emissions per tonne-kilometre transported compared to other modes of transport, its greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase from the current level of around 1 gigatonne per year, by an estimated 150-200 per cent over the next four decades.
Moreover, the shipping sector is a source of air pollution. Unless measures are taken, air pollution over the main shipping routes will increase due to an estimated 10-20 per cent rise in sulphur dioxide emissions in the next two years. Marine fuel oil has a very high sulphur content which ranges from a global average of 27,000 ppm (parts per million) to 10,000 ppm in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs). However, under a new agreement in IMO, ships in the Baltic and North Sea SECAs will have to use fuel with only 0.1 per cent of sulphur content by 2015, as is already the case in EU ports.
There is significant potential for abating emissions from the shipping sector. Technical solutions to reduce fuel consumption, air pollutants and greenhouse gases are readily available and range from better ship design, propulsion and machinery to optimised operation.
The JRC Reference Report "Regulating air emissions from ships: the state of the art on methodologies, technologies and policy options", is available to download: