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Global container lines stigmatize proposed changes to Europe’s Green Deal

Through the World Shipping Council, container carriers today took strong issue with the European Parliament’s proposed amendments to Europe’s cap-and-trade emissions trading system (ETS) which integrates maritime transport as of 2023. They affirmed the changes will “corrupt” the system and reduce its effectiveness in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, putting the EU Green Deal at risk.

The WSC voiced concern over a series of proposed changes made last week to the definitions, scope, phase-in periods, and thresholds contained in the draft report. The latter will be considered by the European Parliament on Feb. 22, with a vote on the final amendments slated for June.

Among the amendments that raised the ire of the WSC was a change in the definition of “responsible entity” to include charterers. This would put the burden of paying the ETS charges on the commercial operator of a vessel instead of the ship owner. Large ocean carriers often have a mix of owned vessels and chartered tonnage within their fleets.

“The person or organization responsible for the compliance with the EU ETS should be the shipping company, defined as the ship owner or any other organization or person, such as the manager or the bareboat charterer, that has assumed the responsibility for the operation of the ship from the shipowner,” the draft amendment read.

The WSC said it is concerned that such a change would “corrupt the entire idea of the ETS” by shielding ship owners from the costs of the ETS while allowing them “front-line access to ETS revenues such as the Ocean Fund.” Ship owners would still have access, for example, to money collected for the Ocean Fund, which seeks to protect and restore marine ecosystems impacted by global warming.

The WSC asserted this measure would change the ETS from a “polluter-pays” policy to a “polluter-gets-paid” system, vastly reducing its effectiveness. It noted the market incentive for technological change that could not be applied to ship owners, who control the pace of shipboard technology innovation, would fail to achieve EU Green Deal goals.

“It’s obvious, frankly, that one cannot decarbonize shipping without addressing the ship itself,” said John Butler, president and CEO of the WSC. “A regional EU ETS carbon price must apply to all parties who have a role in GHG reductions — ship owners and operators. Decarbonizing shipping is an all-hands and global effort, and regional policy must lead rather than impede.” (Dreamstime photo)