Maritime transport leaves a huge ecological footprint |

Lisbon / Copenhagen (dpa) – Not only is traffic on the roads a heavy burden on the environment, but maritime transport also generates greenhouse gases which lead to global warming.

The real environmental impact of maritime transport in Europe has now been summarized for the first time in a report presented by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Environment Agency (EEA) in Lisbon on Wednesday.

The factors studied were air emissions, air pollution, oil spills, sewage discharges, plastic, underwater noise and the transport of living organisms to other water bodies.

According to the report, ships were responsible for 13.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by traffic in the EU in 2018. Road traffic was the biggest polluter with 71%, air traffic accounted for 14.4% of emissions. All modes of transport must become more sustainable, smarter and more resilient, said Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport, according to a statement. This also includes shipping.

Ships play an important role as a means of transport between EU countries, both for people and for goods. 77% of European foreign trade and 35% of all trade in terms of value between EU Member States is carried out by sea. And it will increase even more in the decades to come, experts believe. “EU maritime transport faces a crucial decade for the transition to an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable sector,” the report says.

Emissions are a challenge: in total, ships that docked in EU and European Economic Area ports in 2018 caused around 140 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. This represented around 18% of all CO2 emissions caused by shipping worldwide this year. Sulfur dioxide emissions accounted for 16% of global SO2 emissions from international shipping.

“Although maritime transport has improved its environmental record in recent years, it still faces major challenges in terms of decarbonization and pollution reduction,” said the European Commissioner. One possible solution lies in switching to more environmentally friendly modes of propulsion and energy sources such as biofuels, batteries, hydrogen or ammonia. Shore power, in which ships turn off their engines and connect them to a power source, could also represent a clean energy source in seaports and inland waterways, according to the report.

Another challenge is the underwater noise that ships generate and can affect marine life in different ways. Maritime transport is estimated to have contributed to the fact that underwater noise levels in EU waters more than doubled between 2014 and 2019. Additionally, international maritime transport means that species are transported in planes water in which they are not native and can affect the ecosystems found there.

“The report clearly shows that maritime transport in Europe and the entire international maritime community have an urgent responsibility to step up their efforts to reduce the ecological footprint of this sector,” said EEA chief Hans Bruyninckx .

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