Shipping within the EU emits as much CO2 as all of Belgium

Shipping emits 138 million tons of carbon dioxide a year in Europe. This amounts to more than 3.7 per cent of total EU emissions, which is about as much as all of Belgium. This according to the European Commission's first annual report on carbon dioxide emissions.


The European Commission has used the so-called EU MRV system, which measures carbon dioxide emissions from ships, regardless of flag, with a gross tonnage exceeding 5,000 tons and moving to or from ports in the European Economic Area (EEA). This means that the system covers about 90 percent of the emissions, but only 55 percent of the vessels.

The survey period took place in 2018 and comprised 11,600 ships, which represents 38 percent of the world merchant fleet.

Compared with other modes of transport, emissions from shipping account for 80 per cent of aviation and 15 per cent of road traffic.

The report further shows that the measured fleet is quite young, on average the vessels are 11 years old. Of course, this is positive given that younger vessels tend to have lower emissions than older ones. More disappointing is that 70 percent of the monitored vessels ran on heavy fuel oils while only 3 percent of them used liquefied natural gas (LNG).

A comparison of different vessel types shows that container ships accounted for the largest proportion, almost one third of total emissions. In absolute terms, container ships reported more than 44 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The majority of emissions, about two thirds, come from trips to or from a port outside the EEA, with slightly more emissions from incoming international travel than from outbound ones.

The report also describes shipping as a key part of the EU economy. It is estimated to directly employ 640,000 people and up to 2.1 million people when including the whole supply chain.