Why the merchant ships can pollute the atmosphere with CO2 quite freely

Environment Council - December 2014. EU Ministers of Environment met in Brussels on 17 December 2014. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (in the forefront) also participated in the meeting. (European Council - Council of the European Union, Audiovisual service presse.audiovisuel@consilium.europa.eu)

Environment Council – December 2014. EU Ministers of Environment met in Brussels on 17 December 2014. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (in the forefront) also participated in the meeting. (European Council – Council of the European Union, Audiovisual service presse.audiovisuel@consilium.europa.eu)

Last Wednesday the European Union Environment ministers reached an agreement… essentially to not to impose rules or duties on CO2 emissions from ships. Cunningly, the relevant Council Press release said that the 28 ministers “reached an agreement on new EU-wide rules for CO2 emissions from ships”. Until today, ocean-going shipping is the only sector of transport still escaping any gas emission rules or taxation, and apparently that is not going to change in the foreseeable future. This is not an EU peculiarity, but a worldwide generosity to mercantile marine and of course to ship-owners. But can the EU Council mislead the public opinion that flagrantly? It seems that it can.

Let’s see where the Catch 22 lies. Starting from the beginning, the Council obviously deceives us all, when it refers to ‘new rules’ in relation to CO2 emissions of ocean-going ships. Simply there aren’t any. Yes, there are rules about the cleanness and the sulphur content of the fuel used by ships, when they call at EU ports. Those rules have been imposed a long time ago, because the sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2) had been unbearable for many overcrowded European seaports.

New rules? What new rules?

However, no controls or any rules of any kind whatsoever exist to this date on CO2 emissions from ships, when they reach an EU port, let alone when they relentlessly steam ahead on the lawless international waters of the congested sea routes. Not to forget that invariably all the air and land transport means are meticulously controlled and in many ways taxed according to their CO2 emissions. Probably not as much as some people might want, but surely they pay for their gas emissions. Not the ships.

There is one argument usually advanced by politicians, when the discussion reaches the burning questions of pollution and taxation, in relation to the merchant marine; they claim that ‘ships fare on international high seas and nobody can catch them there’. Unquestionably, this is a good reasoning and will be dealt here below. In any case tough merchant ships have to reach a European port, if they are to be involved in the lucrative transport activities associated to EU’s international trade of mammoth dimensions.


Not to forget that the EU was quite capable of forcing the international shipping community to build double-hulled tanker ships. Brussels simply set a date after which no single-hulled oil tankers could call at a European port. It was enough to change the picture of the oil tanker industry. This proves that if the EU had the political will, it could impose more rules on the shipping marine. Simply in the case of CO2 emissions the EU seems to lack the willingness. A series of accidents involving oil tankers and huge quantities of oil spills destroying miles of European coasts, forced the EU to act. The European beaches seem to have a strong representation in Brussels, while the stratosphere doesn’t.

Coming back to the Council’s Press Release, it gives the impression of having some kind of answers to the question of controlling the CO2 emission of ships, while they rove on international waters. It says, “From 1 January 2018, ship-owners will be obliged to monitor emissions for each ship on a per voyage and an annual basis. There are also provisions on monitoring and reporting, verification and accreditation, and compliance and publication of information as well as international cooperation”.

Generous to ship-owners

The first striking point in this text is the generous six years adjournment, given to ship-owners before the application of any measure. Secondly, there is a conspicuous absence of reference to a duty payment, related even remotely to the volume of the emissions of the vessel. This is in direct contrast with the practices followed in the cases of land and air means of transport, which are thoroughly controlled and taxed according to their CO2 emissions. Not to say anything about the heavily burdened with levies on CO2 volumes, produced in the electricity generation sector.

Now let’s challenge the other Catch 22 included in the above passage of the Council’s Press release. It says that ship-owners will be obliged to measure – obviously with devices installed on their ships – the CO2 emitted. Then it adds that there will be “provisions on monitoring and reporting, verification and accreditation, and compliance and publication of information as well as international cooperation”.

Playing with the meters

Now let’s become as cynical as ship-owners are. For one thing, all those meters and installations to measure the exhaust of the combustion can be compromised while at high seas and restored to regular when calling at a port. The Press release though provides more possibilities to neutralise the entire effort, in case that the CO2 measuring devices cannot be rigged. It says “there will be provision…on…international cooperation”.

It seems that this is the heart or probably the tomb of the entire affair. The hidden Catch 22 is that the EU will expect the Asian, African and North and South American countries to cooperate, in order the Union to introduce a reliable method to measure CO2 emissions of ships. Obviously until the entire world is ready to apply the same measures as the EU, Europe won’t do anything on its own.

Shipowners may rest reassured

It’s more than certain then that the merchant marine doesn’t run any danger of being subject to measuring or even levied for its CO2 emissions. At least not in the foreseeable future. Ship-owners may rest reassured that the EU will never subject them to this extra cost, which can burden the European exports and imports, with an unwanted and ‘senseless’ cost. If the rest of the world doesn’t want it why should we rush? Not to forget that the Commission was pressed on many occasions to make a proposal to measure or even tax the CO2 emissions of ships, but until recently it resisted them all. Now that the EU’s executive arm was forced, for some reason, to act, it paid attention to make it toothless.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Coronavirus response: over €1 billion from EU Cohesion policy to support Spain’s recovery

The hidden pandemic: mental illness

JADE Team at the European Business Summit 2017

Populist Eurosceptics helped by Trumpists seriously threaten the EU edifice

A Sting Exclusive: “Entrepreneurship in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) era” written by the Vice-President of Junior Enterprises Europe

‘Endemic’ sexual violence surging in South Sudan: UN human rights office

Eurozone governed by an obscure body and gray procedures

Climate changes and the imminent public health crises

Eurozone recession subsides

More funds needed to counter ‘persistent and multi-faceted humanitarian problems’ in Ethiopia

Cohesion Policy after 2020: preparing the future of EU investments in health

On their epic journeys, migratory birds connect nations and inspire people, UN says on World Day

Rapid action needed for people to meet challenges of changing world of work

Libya ‘in race against time’, but dissolving conflict ‘a realistic prospect’, Security Council hears

Why India can show us how to achieve growth with purpose

Opening – February plenary session, 27 new seats

Telemedicine and the Brazilian reality

This is what great leadership looks like in the digital age

UNESCO food and culture forum dishes up fresh serving of SDGs

‘True’ peace, requires standing up for human rights, says UN chief Guterres

Iran: UN rights chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by continuing executions of juvenile offenders

WhatsApp to face scrutiny from EU regulators task force over data sharing with Facebook

Tuesday’s Daily Brief: funding for Palestine refugees, families today, tech surveillance

UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

China is adding a London-sized electric bus fleet every five weeks

UN investigates systematic sexual violence across South Sudan

They won this year’s Nobel for economics. Here’s why their work matters

Living to 100: why we should plan for more sushi, chocolate and work

COP22 addresses a strong global pledge to effectively implement the Paris Agreement

Restore hope that peace will come to the Middle East, UN negotiator urges Security Council

Seaweed straws and loose-leaf tea: 6 ways to reduce plastic waste

South Sudan ‘heading towards lasting peace and stability’, UN General Assembly told

3 ways activists are being targeted by cyberattacks

Facts and prejudices about work

How global tech companies can champion ethical AI

Universal Health Coverage in the EU: Are we really leaving no one behind?

Easier Schengen Visas for non-EU holiday makers: A crucial issue for south Eurozone countries

Yemen agreement to end southern power struggle ‘important step’ towards peace: UN Special Envoy

System value can power the energy transition in emerging markets

Future of Insurance Claims in Focus at Fourth Annual Connected Claims Europe Summit

The multidisciplinary team facing the multidrug resistant form of Tuberculosis in the state of Amazonas (Brazil)

Ukraine pays the price for lying between Russia and the EU

UN experts urge Turkey to repatriate Irish woman associated with terror group

We won’t win the online security war without people power

Across the world, women outlive men. This is why

A ‘system value’ approach can accelerate the energy transition. Here’s how

How tiny countries top social and economic league tables (and win at football, too)

Geopolitics and investment in emerging markets after COVID-19

The blackened white coat of the doctors

COP21 Breaking News: “There is an ecological debt that the world needs to pay back to Africa”, French President Francois Hollande promises 2 Billion euros by 2020 from Paris

Conference on Future of Europe should start “as soon as possible in autumn 2020”

Roma integration: fight social exclusion, poverty and anti-gypsyism, MEPs demand

Car rentals: EU action leads to clearer and more transparent pricing

Paradise islands of Pacific increasingly vulnerable to climate change, as UN boosts resilience

Key quotes from China’s Premier Li on COVID-19, the economy and US relations

Right2Water initiative: Is the Commission ready to listen to citizens?

Coronavirus: Commission Statement on consulting Member States on proposal to prolong and adjust State aid Temporary Framework

3 ways to stop COVID-19 from drying up start-up talent pools

UN launches ‘South-South Galaxy’ knowledge-sharing platform in Buenos Aires

Investors have a role in securing our shared digital future

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s