Brussels (Brussels Morning) Shipping represents a significant factor in the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions and should be made more environmentally friendly and more sustainable, according to a report published by two EU agencies.
The European Maritime Transport Environment Report, launched on Wednesday by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), is the two agencies’ first comprehensive look at the environmental impact of the shipping industry in the EU.
Even though it accounts for 77% of European external trade and 35% of trade within the Union, the shipping industry produces just 13.5% of all transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. Road transport accounts for 71%, while aviation sector accounts for 14.4%, placing shipping last among major greenhouse gas contributors in the transport segment.
Presenting the report on Wednesday, EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean stressed that all transport modes need to become more sustainable, including shipping. Vălean acknowledged that the shipping industry reduced its environmental impact in recent years, noting that the big challenges of decarbonisation and pollution reduction still remain.
EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx said that the report clearly shows that the international shipping community has an urgent responsibility to reduce its environmental footprint. Bruyninckx called for more efforts to be invested in a fundamental shift towards a sustainable maritime transport sector.
The report also examined environmental impacts other than greenhouse gas emissions, such as underwater noise, introduction of non-indigenous species and oil pollution. While only 17% of large accidental oil spills since 2010 took place in EU waters, freight ships’ ballast tanks introduced a significant number of non-indigenous species in EU seas since 1949.
Non-indigenous species introduced through the maritime transport sector accounted for as much as 50% of all species, with the largest number found in the Mediterranean. A total of 51 species were identified as “high impact” species, with the potential to negatively affect local ecosystems and their native species.