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Liberian Registry opposes the EU emissions regulations for international shipping

Photo: Liberian Registry Liberian Registry opposes the EU emissions regulations for international shipping
Alfonso Castillero, Chief Operating Officer of the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry
The Liberian Registry has announced its objection to the European Union (EU) Parliament proposal on the implementation of a separate, unilateral set of regulations, in the instance of the Emissions Trading System (ETS) scheme for international shipping.

“We understand the need for efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and continue to push for a cleaner environment, as well as a more efficient maritime industry. However, at least for international shipping, it is vital we work toward one set of requirements established by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), avoiding the creation of a fractured system of regional requirements that reach beyond their own waters, and assuring a unified global effort to confront this important issue,” said Alfonso Castillero, Chief Operating Officer of the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR).

“The EU ETS scheme, if implemented, should be applicable only to those waters of EU members, and not become a global scheme. The EU ETS scheme, if applied extraterritorially beyond intra-EU voyages, will distort the global market situation because it will cover voyages not only within the EU, but also voyages to and from the EU as agreed by the EU Parliament. Like many other IMO member states, we remain committed to working with the EU on a collaborative effort to address the environmental challenges posed by greenhouse gas emissions,” Castillero added.

Liberia agrees with the recent World Shipping Council (WSC) position that a unilateral EU ETS scheme would undermine efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions currently underway, including the proposal made by a broad coalition of industry associations to the IMO, for the establishment of an International Maritime Research and Development Board, funded by the industry, to accelerate the introduction of low-carbon and zero-carbon technologies and fuels for shipping.

The WSC expressed, in its document, the serious concerns around maritime emissions reduction if the EU expands its ETS to include international shipping.

“The most-discussed geographic application of the EU ETS - now approved by the EU Parliament - is to mirror the scope of existing EU legislation on Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of carbon emissions. While the EU ETS has been described as a ‘regional’ system, bringing international shipping into that system using the MRV scope, it would, in effect, regulate the operation of ships on several of the world’s seas and oceans, including on the high seas and in waters adjacent to non-EU nations,” explained Castillero.

The 2019 EU Annual Report on CO2 Emissions found that, within Europe, shipping transported 75% of EU’s external trade but accounted only for 3.7% of emissions.  Maritime transport should continue to play a key role in a European climate neutral economy. In the EU report’s own words: “Waterborne transport is already one of the most energy-efficient modes of transport available.” 

The Liberian Registry emphasises the needs to fully understand that taxation costs incurred from an ETS, will be distributed to the supply chains and will have a genuine impact on the costs of ocean transport. 

If the EU were to apply its ETS to shipping using the same geographic scope as the EU’s existing MRV regulation, the effect would be to apply a financial charge on voyages that in some cases stretch halfway around the world. 

Over half of the covered emissions would result from voyages outside of EU waters. They would also apply to emissions associated with cargoes that are transhipped through the EU, but that are not EU imports or exports. This would have a particularly disproportionate effect on developing countries, an issue which is a key concern to Liberia. This opens up the very real prospect of trade and tax retaliation on a global scale.

In addition to adding cost and complexity to international shipping, the application of one or more national or regional carbon pricing mechanisms, as already mentioned, would entrench such unilateral measures, making it more difficult to reach a uniform, effective, and global solution through the IMO.

Liberia echoes its support for the IMO to continue to push forward its decarbonisation goals, and safely navigate the regulations resulting from them.

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