The sixth edition of the EU Blue Economy Report which analyzes the scope and size of the Blue Economy in the European Union, has been published.
Maritime transport was identified in the report as the most carbon-efficient mode of transport, with the lowest carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per distance and weight carried. Indeed, it produces less exhaust gas emissions – including nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide – for each ton transported per kilometer than air or road transport.
However, the report also highlighted that shipping contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) because of the great volumes involved, representing around 13% of the overall EU GHG from the transport sector.
Underwater noise from shipping
Underwater noise from shipping is also increasingly recognized as a significant and pervasive pollutant, affecting marine ecosystems on a global scale. Under the marine strategy framework directive, Member States have the responsibility to implement appropriate measures, for example by reducing ship-generated noise, or setting spatial restrictions for human activity.
Shipping in numbers
Maritime transport carried out 74% of the goods traded to and from the EU in 2021. Ships registered under the flag of an EU Member State represent 16.2% of the total world fleet measured in dead weight tonnage (DWT). EU passenger ships can carry up to 1.3 million passengers, representing 40% of the world’s passenger transport capacity.
Like most sectors of the economy, Maritime transport has been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in 2021 there was a sound rebound (8.3% and 7.9% respectively on the previous year) due to the gradual reopening of economies.
The importance of maritime logistics for trade purposes became very evident in 2022, due to the Russian unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. With a reduced maritime connectivity and higher shipping costs, inflation rose, so as shortages of food.
Technological advancement, such as artificial intelligence, digitalization and automation can drive the growth of the sector. An example of technological advancement is Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships (MASS), which have the potential to increase safety and productivity as well as to contribute towards the sustainability goals for Maritime transport.
Ocean and Marine Renewable Energy will continue to be crucial in achieving the ambitious goals and targets of the European Green Deal, the EU Hydrogen Strategy, the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy, as well as the REPowerEU Communication.
- Ocean energy: Tidal energy is the first of the emerging ocean energy technologies to have been implemented at a large scale.
- Floating wind energy: current floating wind energy projects in the EU account for 40 MW of installed capacity.
- Floating solar photovoltaic energy: The technology has been for now mostly deployed on lakes and hydro-power reservoirs, with a worldwide installed capacity of 1.3 GW in 2018 already expected to reach 13 GW in 2022.
Hybrid approaches that incorporate more than one renewable energy source are also starting to be deployed at a small scale. Incorporating ocean energy devices into offshore wind, floating offshore wind and floating PV technologies will help lower the cost of ocean energy technologies through sharing facilities, while maximising and stabilising the energy output.
Beyond electricity production, these technologies also have the potential to contribute to the goal to deploy 40 GW of hydrogen electrolysis capacity connected to renewable sources by 2030. On the other hand, the deployment of offshore renewable energies answers the limits of space met by renewable energies onshore. The production of hydrogen directly at sea makes it also easier to organize its large-scale transport and distribution from production site at a relatively low cost.
Environmental regulations and strategies, such as the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and the FuelEU Maritime proposal, push for more sustainable alternatives within the sector.
Several other proposals under the Fit for 55 Legislative Package (July 2021), amongst which the proposal for an extension of the European Emission Trading System (ETS) to include Maritime transport, aim to address the climate impact of the sector, so to contribute to the net greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
To remind, The European Parliament also adopted a new law to reduce methane emissions from the energy sector to reach the EU’s climate goals and improve air quality.
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