Following a decision made by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2008, the European Union adopted a Directive in 2012 imposing a drastic reduction in sulphur emissions from ships and requiring considerable investment from both port authorities and shipowners. In this context, the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) organised a seminar in Dunkirk on 22 March 2013, at the invitation of the Region of Nord-Pas de Calais.
During the debates, all the maritime regions present supported the principles and the objectives established by the IMO and the EU, with the aim of improving human health and the environment and to achieve greener shipping. In a final declarayion, they “wanted to contribute to a better implementation of these provisions in supporting shipowners and stakeholders in their adaptation efforts”. However, the adjustment period envisaged by the Directive is deemed to be “very short” by the CPMR and it therefore urges the Member States, the European Commission and the IMO for flexibility in the implementation.
“The implementation of this Directive may generate economic and industrial opportunities for the regions.” Declared Wulfran Despicht, Vice-President for the Sea of the Region of Nord-Pas de Calais. “Yet I wonder if the various economic players have been made sufficiently aware of the issues relating to the implementation of the Directive and above all if the investment can be funded after 2015 and by whom.”
For the European institutions, Elena Visnar Malinovska, Member of the Cabinet of Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the environment, reminded participants that “Commissioner Potocnik is well aware of the challenges, as well as the call for more flexibility” and that “the Commission wishes to support the Regions in the implementation of this Directive”, but it should not be forgotten that “58% of the EU population is exposed to a higher level of sulphur dioxide (SO2) than that provided by the World Health Organisation and that 21% of the urban population is exposed to particles that exceed the limits set by the EU.”
The European Commission invited the Regions to pull together and take action before the new financial programming 2014-2020. Funding in ports (including the financing of LNG refuelling points) could be supported by the ERDF and by regional state aid, for the environment and for shipbuilding, as well as by state aid for innovative financing provided for in the new framework programme for research, HORIZON 2020. “I invite you to share your plans and strategies with us and to continue our discussions in the framework of the European Sustainable Maritime Transport Forum that we are establishing.” Said Jean-Eric Paquet, Director, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport of the European Commission, when addressing the CPMR.
For the CPMR, Eleni Marianou, Secretary General, looked forward to participating in this Forum, considering that, until now, “the Regions have not been sufficiently involved in the implementation of the European Maritime Transport Policy”. During the debates, Jean-Marc Roué, President of Brittany Ferries, the largest maritime employer in France, presented the experience of shipowners. “It is heresy to curb the emissions according to this plan: the regulation has been known since 2008, but investment in ships is made planned over 25-30 years. Shipowners can respect this Directive from now for new vessels, but for old vessels an extension is needed, if we are to avoid an economic catastrophe.”
Michel Delebarre, Senator-Mayor of Dunkirk, Dominique Riquet, Vice-President of the Committee on Transport and Tourism of the European Parliament, also participated in the debates, as well as Frédéric Cuvillier, French Junior Minister for Transport, the Sea and Fisheries for the Minister of Ecology, who spoke of the need for a collective response from the Regions, the States, the EU and the socio-economic players to address the sulphur challenge and thus develop blue growth. With regard to the implementation of the Directive, France will continue to work vigilantly within the Council’s dedicated working group for an application that respects the interests of maritime transport players as much as possible.