Strategic Priorities

Climate and Sustainability

Work together with the EU, the IMO and our maritime partners towards the sustainability of our sector and in our common fight against climate change through innovation and research.

The European shipowners are committed to achieve the global IMO CO2 reduction targets. This requires extensive research, development and innovation in new, alternative fuels.



In April 2018, the International Maritime Organisation adopted a historic climate strategy, setting the shipping industry’s path towards a carbon-neutral future. It requires the global shipping sector to reduce by 2030 its CO2 emissions per transport work, as an average across international shipping, by at least 40% compared to 2008 levels, while pursuing efforts towards 70% by 2050. Furthermore, the total annual GHG emissions from international shipping should be reduced by at least 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 whilst pursuing efforts towards phasing them out as soon as possible in this century. This is the first time sector-specific CO2 targets have been set on a global scale. As shipping is a truly global industry, global regulations are the most effective and efficient way forward. Regional measures will lead to carbon leakage, can be seen as protectionist and might slow down progress on the global framework. They might also lead to modal shifts from sea transport to less fuel efficient land based transport modes and be harmful to EU jobs and growth.

The IMO Climate Strategy also identified a list of candidate short, medium and long term measures for CO2 emission reduction. EU shipowners support this ambitious step and are committed to adopting short and medium term measures and being part of the solution through their continued investment in innovative and sustainable solutions. At the moment, international shipping is fossil fuel captive. Full decarbonisation requires alternative, low carbon or zero carbon marine fuels and/or breakthrough propulsion technologies, to become widely available. Close cooperation with our partners in the maritime cluster and supply chain is necessary to ultimately reach this goal.

In this context, ECSA calls for:

  • global rules to be developed at the international level to avoid any reduction in the competitiveness of European shipping
  • the EU to support the industry through a constructive role at IMO level
  • EU support for Research & Innovation that will help drive the whole maritime sector towards decarbonisation
  • funding from the EU that will help the deployment of projects on the reduction of maritime GHG emissions
  • vast improvements in land-side port facilities for alternative fuels and waste reception installations to support the industry's drive for green shipping

Offshore sector as enabler of the energy transition

The offshore sector is an important part of the European shipping industry. Cargo and offshore service vessels play a vital role in the development of renewable offshore energy such as wind energy. As Europe searches for different sources of renewable and emission-free energy sources, the shipping industry is keen to work with the EU regulators to:

  • further develop the offshore segment as one key contributor to the fight against climate change



As a transposition of IMO MARPOL Convention Annex VI, the EU Sulphur Directive 2016/802 requires since 1 January 2015 ships sailing in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas - the Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea – to use bunker fuels with a sulphur content of maximum 0.1% m/m.

In addition, to globally reduce SOx emissions, the IMO has set a global sulphur limit of 0.50% m/m from 1 January 2020. In order to be compliant with the new limit, new fuels will be introduced. This introduction leads to concerns about the availability globally and the quality of the new fuels. Compliant fuels have to be safe fuels in order to first of all ensure safety of life at sea and protection of the environment and to avoid related insurance and liability implications.

Besides bunkering compliant fuels ships can use equivalent emissions abatement methods such as exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS, also called scrubbers) to meet the EU and IMO’s sulphur requirements when sailing on high sulphur fuels.

As marine fuels provided to ships will need to be increasingly cleaner, shipowners call upon the EU to also recognise the important challenges this brings to the industry.

In this light, ECSA calls for:

  • the EU to work closely with all other stakeholders within the IMO to ensure that the European shipping industry has access to safe, environmentally sound and compliant fuels worldwide
  • the EU to strive for the adoption of a clear, long-term, harmonised and based on sound technical evidence approach to the use of equivalent emissions abatement methods. The principle of grandfathering must be maintained to ensure that European shipowners that made investments in good faith to be compliant with the Sulphur Directive and IMO rules are not unfairly penalized
  • the European regulators to recognise the lesser-known medium-term routes to reduce or/and eliminate SOx, such as biogas and LPG. Support by the regulators in the uptake of such fuels will be necessary to help the industry transition later to an efficient zero-emission fuel when the technologies will have matured



In 2009, the IMO adopted the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC). The HKC was developed to address specific safety and environmental issues arising in ship-recycling. The underlying principle was the real and urgent need to address the poor working conditions, the lack of training, recurring accidents and the negative environmental externalities suffered in many of the world’s ship-recycling facilities. To achieve this, the HKC sets itself as the global standard for recycling facilities worldwide, rather than a yardstick that separates the very good facilities above the rest.

The European shipping industry is committed to such global efforts to improve the conditions of recycling operations and we welcome the reflection of the HKC requirements in the European Union’s Regulation on ship recycling. The regulation rightfully aims to facilitate the entry into force of the HKC worldwide.

As such, ECSA would like to engage with:

  • the EU Member States to ratify the HKC as a matter of priority and strive to ensure that key Recycling States and Flag States follow suit. Only this will guarantee a global supply of high quality ship recycling available to the global and EU shipping industry
  • the EU and its Member States to acknowledge the progress already made in non-EU countries and encourage further sustainable transformations by including in a transparent way and as quickly as possible non-EU yards on the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities. This would certainly incentivise the non-EU yards to raise their social and environmental standards
  • the EU and its Member States to follow its own principles of sustainable development. Sustainable development consists of three pillars: economic, environmental and social. To achieve sustainable development in third countries, EU policies in the three areas must work hand in hand together and support one another to deliver positive change. To support sustainable development, one must start with providing safe and stable jobs locally, where it is most needed. One common factor of the main ship-recycling countries (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) is their need for ferrous scrap for steel manufacturing and the high number of companies and jobs directly related to ship recycling. It is important to recognise and support the economic benefits of the ship-recycling industry in these developing economies while at the same time encourage the rise of social and environmental standards