CO2 Emissions: A Focus on Maritime Transport

September 19, 2023
CO2 Emissions: A Focus on Maritime Transport

Maritime transport is a growing source of CO2 emissions over the past 30 years, causing significant concern. This growth is mainly due to a record increase in traffic (number of passengers and freight volume) and the use of older, increasingly large ships.

Powered by heavy fuel oil, one of the world's dirtiest fuels, merchant ships are also blamed for their role in marine pollution caused by plastic and hydrocarbon discharge.

Figures we'd like to see change

  • Shipping accounts for about 3% of global CO2 emissions, or between 600 and 1,100 million tons per year over the past decade, according to the latest IPCC report(1).
  • Annual CO2 emissions from international maritime transport have doubled since 1990(2).

What measures are being taken at European and global levels?

Significant advances were voted on by European MPs at the end of 2022:

  • The obligation for large shipowners (> 5,000 gross tons) to use a percentage of green hydrogen-derived fuels by 2030.
  • The inclusion of maritime transport in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), which will, for the first time, require ship operators to pay for their carbon emissions.

It should also be noted that, since January 1, 2023, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has implemented a mandatory annual international data collection system for CO2 emissions for all ships.

Green solutions in maritime transport!

Solutions to minimize CO2 emissions exist:

  • Electric barges: The first prototype of a 100% electric container ship from Dutch company Port-Liner was introduced in 2018. Currently limited by a low battery range (maximum 35 hours) and storage capacity, this container ship, nicknamed the "Tesla" boat, is hailed as a revolution for maritime freight.
  • Hybrid cargo ships: French company Zephyr & Borée designs commercial ships that combine sails and engines. Their latest example, the Canopée, recently completed its first transatlantic crossing with parts of the Ariane 6 launcher onboard. This 121-meter hybrid ship could reduce the CO2 emissions of a conventional container ship by 35%.
  • "Zero-emission" hydrogen-powered boats: The Hylias project, coordinated by Europe Technologies CIAM and Morbihan Énergies, plans to launch a 24-meter electro-hydrogen propulsion vessel to transport 150-200 passengers in the Gulf of Morbihan by 2024.


(2) Global international shipping CO₂ emissions 1970-2021 – Statista – February 2023

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