MEPs last week agreed on a set of carbon-cutting rules for maritime transport, granting an exception for ferries such as those operated by Gozo Channel.

The European Parliament is hoping that the maritime sector cuts its greenhouse gas emissions by two per cent in two years, 20 per cent as of 2035 and 80 per cent as of 2050. 

This after the European Commission’s adoption of a proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent until 2030 and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

This target requires a 90 per cent reduction in transport emissions, meaning that all transport modes ‒ including maritime ‒ will have to contribute to step up efforts.

Among others, MEPs set a target of two per cent of renewable fuels usage and mandated containerships and passenger ships to use onshore power supply while at berth at main EU ports as of 2030. This would significantly reduce air pollution in ports.

To ensure compliance, MEPs favour the introduction of penalties.

The revenue generated from fines would go towards helping develop energy efficiency and zero-emission propulsion technologies.

But, ahead of the vote on these rules in parliament, Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar, who sits on the committee on transport and tourism, tabled some amendments.

She told Times of Malta that she wanted to ensure consistency with the union’s plans for the decarbonisation of the sector while also “preserving competitiveness, fostering sustainable economic growth targets and ensuring the situation of peripheral regions and islands like ours are taken into account”.

One amendment notes that, in taking into account the specific situation of island regions and the need to preserve connectivity between islands and peripheral regions with central regions of the bloc, temporary exemptions should be allowed for trips by passenger ships (not cruise passenger ships) between a port of call under the jurisdiction of a member state and another port of call under the jurisdiction of the same state located in an island with fewer than 100,000 residents.

According to recent regional statistics, Gozo was home to 34,430 people in 2019.

Could decarbonisation rules lead to cargo diversion?

Cutajar told Times of Malta she also proposed the commission should continuously monitor the impact of these carbon-cutting rules on cargo diversion, in particular via transhipment ports in neighbouring countries.

She explained that ships which usually berth at EU ports might be deterred by the decarbonisation requisites and take their business elsewhere.

Cutajar’s proposal, which was also approved last week, ensures that, if the commission notices “major negative impacts on union ports”, it would submit legislative proposals to the European Parliament and the council to amend this carbon-cutting regulation.

“In particular, the commission shall analyse the impact of this regulation on outermost regions and islands and shall, where appropriate, propose amendments to the scope of this regulation,” parliament decided.

The position on draft EU rules for sustainable maritime fuels was adopted by 451 votes to 137 and 54 abstentions.

The European Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with member states.

Apart from fewer emissions from ships, MEPs also agreed they wanted car-recharging stations every 60 kilometres and hydrogen refuelling stations every 100 kilometres, in a bid to help the European Union become climate neutral.

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