Environmental port charging should stay voluntary

Jul 20 2017

Environmental port charging should stay voluntary

A recent report, published by the European Commission, tackled the topic of differentiated port infrastructure charges, examining the benefits and challenges linked to their implementation. The issues at hand will make an appearance at the upcoming Baltic Ports Conference in Trelleborg, Sweden.

Multiple solutions for decreasing the negative impact of the maritime transport on the environment have been suggested in recent years, many of which have been already implemented, with a varying degree of success, in the Baltic Sea region.

According to the report, “environmental charging” is being mentioned increasingly more often in the aforementioned context of measures employed by the ports in their quest to become more eco-friendly. It has already inspired a number of ports to voluntarily implement certain initiatives, aimed at lowering the shipping sector’s negative impact on the environment, e.g. the Environmental Shipping Index, Clean Baltic Sea Shipping and Green Award.

The report mentions various environmental and economic benefits, which may result from differentiated “environmental charging”. For example, the report states that based on a simulation carried out for the report, a discount of 20% on port dues in all EU ports for vessels certified with an ESI score of 30 points may lead up to a 4,34% reduction of current NOx, SOx and PM emissions in the EU – under the assumption that 14% of the EU fleet were eligible for the discount.

Bogdan Oldakowski, BPO Secretary General, commenting on the report, said:

“BPO welcomes DG Move’s report on environmentally differentiated port charges. It is a very good and comprehensive study on how EU ports, among them quite many Baltic ports, apply these kinds of schemes to support the use of environmental technologies and management by ship-owners. BPO is of the opinion that use of environmental charging should stay voluntary at the EU level”. 

Were all EU ports (as well as Norway and Turkey) to decide to implement an environmental charging scheme, the resulting financial incentives for the shipping sector could reach up to 1,4 billion euro over a 5-year period (given an average rebate of 30% on port dues for “green ships” and assuming that 30% of calls in the EU ports are eligible for discount).

That said, an inappropriate implementation of “environmental charging” does pose risks. Voluntary nature of these incentives, which as of now remain regulated individually by the ports, might result in a spike in prices, in turn leading to a drop in business volumes.

The report also mentions doubts, voiced by some port authorities and stakeholders, regarding the actual appeal of environmental charging as an incentive for shipowners to strengthen their efforts to “go greener”. Port dues are but a minor fragment of costs carried by shipowners, meaning that rebates offered by the ports won’t be sufficient to cover the investments necessary to implement environmentally friendly technologies.

A more coordinated and streamlined approach to environmental charging could benefit the process of implementation and ease the impact on both ports and the shipping sector. Cooperation and exchange of best practices are a hallmark of the maritime transport sector in the Baltic Sea region. Based on these traditions, the region is well positioned to make differentiated port infrastructure charges “work”, while retaining the voluntary status of these incentives.

Don’t miss your chance to learn more about the subject – register now for the Baltic Ports Conference 2017 and listen to Rémi Mayet, Deputy Head of the Unit "Ports & Inland navigation", European Commission, talk in detail about the implementation of port regulation and environmentally differentiated port charges.

The report, published by the European Commission, has been prepared by COGEA as lead company of Glintt Inov, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Kühne Logistics University.

The report is available for direct download from the European Commission’s website.