ShippingWatch

European shipowners have no official stance on disputed carbon quotas

The EU Commission's president has said that shipping must file under the union's much-discussed quota system, but ECSA has no official stance on the matter yet. A dispute between Northern Europe and Greece seems to be blocking the issue.

Claes Berglund replaced Panos Laskaridis as president of ECSA at the turn of the year. Photo: PR/Stena

The EU Commission's plans to implement CO2 quotas for shipping have been met with great concern from several places in the industry.

While other organizations have clearly distanced themselves from the proposal, European shipowners still have no official position on the quotas, says Swedish Claes Berglund, new president of the European Community Shipowners' Associations (ECSA), in an interview with ShippingWatch.

"ECSA has not taken a stand on this issue yet. There are no suggestion on the table. We are waiting on a more concrete suggestion. We would really like to be part of that. We are waiting the discussion before we can take a stand. It is too early now," says Berglund.

ECSA has not taking a stand on this issue yet. There are no suggestion on the table. We are waiting on a more concrete suggestion

Claes Berglund, President, ECSA

For years, there has been major pressure from the international community to include the shipping industry in the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Today, shipping is the only industry that is still not part of the system. But the industry's argument that it needs to be regulated globally, being a global business, seems to be losing momentum.

Shipping must contribute

In her inaugural speech as new president for the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen stated clearly that shipping must in the future file under the ETS and, like all other industries, contribute to climate change mitigation.

Whether it is likely that shipping will once again avoid having the quotas imposed is difficult to tell, Berglund reckons. He is, however, not sure whether the quota system is the best solution.

Shipping must contribute to climate change mitigation, he emphasizes. This is also reflected in the UN's International Maritime Organization's (IMO) deal from 2018, by which shipping committed to halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Berglund says.

"European shipping is a subset of the global shipping industry and we always prefer global regulations over regional ones. If in the end we have to implement regional EU measures, we would like to have a close dialog with the Commission on how to do this in the best way. These measures should preferably be efficient in terms of carbon reduction without compromising our competitiveness versus the rest of the world," he says.

"If this is a Maritime ETS or something else, I'm not sure, but we need to discuss this much more."

Troika blocks decision

ECSA's lack of a stance on the European quotas is, according to ShippingWatch's information, due to more than that.

The shipowners' organization has always been a troika consisting of the current president, the vice president and the former president.

As such, President Berglund does not set the direction by himself but needs to agree with Cypriot Philippos Philis, currently vice president, and Greek Panos Laskaridis, who was president himself until the end of last year.

This trio needs to agree before a clear stance is announced. And that has put the organization under pressure concerning the matter of CO2 quotas, as the Greeks have allegedly blocked a decision, declining to face the reality of a future quota system for shipping, sources tell ShippingWatch.

Berglund declines to comment on the information.

Denmark skeptical

Association Danish Shipping is among the organizations looking upon the Commission's statement with skepticism.

European quota trading will not bring along a climate-neutral shipping industry, said Maria Skipper Schwenn, executive director of security, environment and maritime research.

Interest group Bimco, too, has voiced its concern and wants global regulation from the IMO.

In December, the EU Commission presented 50 initiatives, which combined are meant to result in a carbon-neutral EU by 2050.

In the so-called European Green Deal, the Commission states intentions to include shipping in the quota system that the industry has otherwise been fighting vehemently.

English Edit: Jonas Sahl Jørgensen

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