ENDS – Greener ships could enjoy lower charges at EU ports

23 May 2013 - Ships with superior environmental performance should pay less to enter EU ports, according to a draft regulation unveiled on Thursday.

The legislative proposal on port policy envisions that fees should vary according to vessels’ type, fuel and activity, for example short-sea shipping.

The concept is not well defined at this stage. The European Commission wants to get MEPs and the member states behind it before conducting further work.

A common methodology for calculating the discounts would be developed by member state experts by 2015.

Several major European ports, such as Hamburg and Rotterdam, are already varying their fees according to ships’ pollutant emissions. These fees are set according to the environmental ship index, a calculation method developed by the World Ports Climate Initiative. The index has expanded outside the EU since its launch in 2011.

In Sweden, discounts are similarly based on NOx and SO2 emissions. The Green Award, a more broadly-based scheme taking into account other environmental factors such as waste management, is also used by some EU ports.

Patrick Verhoeven of ports body ESPO said it called on the commission to look into these schemes “rather than invent something completely new”.

One of the main intentions of the draft regulation is to improve the efficiency of goods handling at the EU’s 319 major ports. Cutting congestion could open up the market for short-sea shipping, which is less carbon-intensive than alternative forms of transport. It would also boost economic growth.

The commission also notes that European ports need to cope as ships grow in size, driven by the need to improve fuel efficiency. The provision of shore-side electricity and liquefied natural gas fuel are further challenges.