EU to end piecemeal approach to maritime policy

Publish date: October 11, 2007

Written by: Eivind Hoff

BRUSSELS - A draft integrated European Union (EU) maritime policy was presented on October 10th by the European Commission (EC) with the aim of creating a single framework to regulate maritime transport, off-shore energy production, carbon capture and storage, tourism, fisheries and environmental protection in European and international waters.

In its submission of the draft policy, the EC recognised that compartmentalised policy development and decision-making for its seas is no longer adequate. To improve coherence, the EC proposes to assist EU Member States in developing maritime spatial planning.

Enhanced coordination of maritime data collection and surveillance among Member States is another centre-piece to the Commission’s plans. No seas are purely internal to the EU. Maritime affairs will be emphasised in EU external relations policy, in particular in relations with Russia. The Commission will present in 2008 a report on strategic issues relating to the Arctic Ocean.

Concrete action to improve the state of the oceans will require legislation. An action plan also proposed on October 10th lists a number of forthcoming proposals, most of which were already known. The environmental centre-piece is a marine environment framework directive that will oblige Member States to safeguard the environmental quality of their seas. The proposed directive is currently being debated by EU legislators.

The action plan further confirms that the Commission follows the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) discussions on reducing emissions of green house gasses and of SOx, NOx and particles from ships through the revision of MARPOL Annex VI. If it concludes that the results are insufficient, it will consider alternative proposals for action. The Commission further announced that it will make proposals to reduce air pollution from ships in ports by removing tax disadvantages for shore side electricity.

“Progress on curbing air emissions from shipping at IMO, an organization dominated by the major flags of convenience, is too slow,” said Konrad Pütz, an advisor on environmental technology and transport at Bellona.

“Shipping activity is rising fast, and pollution from international shipping in European waters is in the 10 to 15 coming years expected to outgrow emissions from all land based sources combined,” said Pütz.

“We therefore welcome the new policy. The work to limit emissions from international shipping needs proactive and accountable actors, and it is a positive sign that European citizens are no longer willing to be kept hostage by small countries with large and open ship registers.”

The Commission also confirmed its intention to propose, by the end of 2007, an enabling legal framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS). It will notably cover the removal of obstacles to storage in subsea formations.

For more information on the Commission’s plans, see the EC’s web page at