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Is Europe shooting itself in the foot with environment regs for shipping?

Is Europe shooting itself in the foot with environment regs for shipping?
Last week, Transfennica announced it would be closing a ro-ro service running between Bilbao, Portsmouth and Zeebrugge. The line has become the latest casualty for North Sea operators in the run up to the 2015 entry into force of the European Commission’s (EC) 0.1% sulphur cap inthe North Europe and Baltic emission control areas (ECAs).

The problem is becoming more serious. Adding to DFDS’ previously-announced ferry line closures, the Transfennica closure came based on the company’s expectation that any attempt to pass ECA surcharges on to haulage companies would push at least 50% of them onto roads, as prophesied by the UK Chamber of Shipping’s, policy director (safety and environment), David Balston in February.

Worse, the line was designated as one of the EC’s “Motorways of the Sea”, a programme introduced with the express purpose of achieving the exact opposite – to “bring about a structural change in our transport organisation within the next years to come… more sustainable, and should be commercially more efficient, than road-only transport… thus improving access to markets throughout Europe, and bring relief to our over-stretched European road system.” And, crucially, investing EUR6.8m ($8.37m) of EU cash in the now-closed line to do so. Has the EC shot itself in the foot?
“I am not sure whether we can say that,” secretary general European Community Shipowners’ Association Patrick Verhoeven told Seatrade Global. In fact, Verhoeven seems to think the fault lies elsewhere. “The measures were in the first place conceived at the level of IMO, where they were introduced without proper impact assessment. That is where the root of the problem lies. These rules were then transposed into EU legislation. Granted, during that process a few additional restrictions were brought in, but fundamentally, the measures should have had a more thorough reflection and assessment in IMO.”

Verhoeven indicates that the EU’s European Sustainable Shipping Forum has potential: “This of course cannot produce miracles, but has proved to be helpful on some technical points,” he adds.

Despite this though, UK Chamber seems to think the issue is fairly clear cut, with spokesman Johnathan Roberts indicating: “This is further evidence that the fears that the shipping industry have expressed in recent years are true – routes are closing, the economic contribution is being reduced, jobs are being lost, and it’s time for the EU to adopt a more flexible and pragmatic approach to reducing our sulphur emissions, in a way that is allowable under the IMO regulations – the evidence has mounted up and it’s time for them to listen.”

Now, the EC appears to be forging ahead with yet more measures to introduce Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of carbon emissions on a regional basis, instead of global IMO legislation, prompting the ICS to report that it was “disappointed and concerned”  with the Commission. Further, BIMCO yesterday indicated the regulation was “unhelpful in terms of reaching an international agreement on the crucial issue of CO2 monitoring.”

Slamming the “cack-handed” 0.1% sulphur cap last month, UK Chamber’s ceo Guy Platten indicated “We wait with some trepidation for the next great new idea from the EC.” It seems, then, that he will have much to look forward to.

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