Sinterklaas’ steamboat will also have to sail cleaner

Poor Santa Claus. The good old man could count on a festive arrival in our country for years, but Corona threw a spanner in the works. Last year the public was not allowed to be present at the entry, and this year the central entry in Utrecht was even canceled altogether. And now comes another setback. Sinterklaas’ steamboat is quite polluting. That was not a problem for a long time because maritime transport, like aviation, is not covered by the Paris Agreement. But the European Commission is now going to do something about it.

Not that the maritime sector has been sitting still. In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a special agency of the United Nations, published a strategy promising a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 compared to 2008.

Since then, progress has been rather slow. The statement from the Secretary General of the IMO this summer was that ‘the path to decarbonisation is long, but it is a joint path in which people’s opinions are considered and respected’. In short, everyone should be able to stay on board.

Meanwhile, more and more countries are losing patience. Due to growing world trade, emissions from shipping are expected to increase by 50 percent by 2050. At COP26, the climate summit that was recently held in Glasgow, 19 countries, including the Netherlands, therefore signed the Clydebank Declaration, an agreement to at least create six green shipping lanes by 2025.

In Europe, the maritime sector is responsible for 3 to 4 percent of total EU emissions. With the ‘net-zero’ target in 2050 in mind and growing world trade in mind, the Commission is now looking for regulations that impose stricter standards on shipping. So in the coming years, we will have to watch out for Sinterklaas.

As part of the recently published ‘Fit for 55’ package, the Commission has put forward a proposal: FuelEU Maritime. In this, shipping is obliged to reduce greenhouse gases by 75 percent by 2050 compared to 2020. The schedule starts in 2025 with a reduction of 2 percent. A higher reduction target is then set every five years, with the momentum only really starting to pick up from 2040.

This also seems like a slow pace, but ships last 25 to 30 years and you don’t just cat out. This means that especially new ships in the fleet can be fitted with an engine that runs on cleaner fuel. For the time being, this will mainly be transition fuel LNG, but the first cargo ship that will sail on green hydrogen has already been announced this summer.

The new regulations will apply to all ships under all flags sailing to or from a European seaport. Ships sailing from one European port to another European port are also covered by the regulations. There are some exceptions for, among others, fishing, naval and small vessels.

If this proposal succeeds, the European Commission will still make short shrift of the maritime sector’s attempt to contribute to the goal of the Paris Agreement through self-regulation. Sinterklaas will also have to believe it. From 2025 he will really have to come this way with a cleaner boat.

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