The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) is voicing its concerns over the potential social and economic impact of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) on European ports. With the EU’s ambitious climate goals, including a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the ETF is aligned with the need for environmental action. However, the extension of ETS to the maritime sector, which will involve monitoring emissions from ships using EU ports from January 2024, has raised serious apprehensions.
The ETS for the maritime sector will scrutinize emissions from intra-EU journeys in their entirety and 50% of those emitted during inbound and outbound journeys. For vessels with a tonnage exceeding 5000 GT that have visited EU ports, annual emissions quotas will apply, with a pricing system set at €93 per European Union Allowance (EUA) for every ton of CO2 emitted, beginning in April 2025.
The ETF has consistently warned of the potential negative consequences of this regulation on European ports, particularly in the ro-pax sector and container transshipment traffic. In transshipment, the ETS implementation could risk cargo diversion and the abandonment of port activities, rendering the rule ineffective environmentally and leading to job losses.
The ETF advocates for the use of funds generated by ETS taxes to support the conversion of polluting ships and fleet modernization. These funds should be linked to objectives such as increased port calls in EU ports, incentivizing environmentally friendly practices.
The impact on the ro-pax sector is of particular concern, as the ETS could lead to the closure of essential ro-pax lines, affecting territorial continuity and the Motorways of the Sea. This shift would result in increased CO2 emissions and a return of millions of trucks to the roads, reversing the progress made in reducing congestion and emissions through the Motorways of the Sea initiative.
In 2022, the Motorways of the Sea removed 2.4 million trucks from European roads, reducing CO2 emissions by over 2.6 million tons per year. The ETF emphasizes that the ETS impact on the ro-pax sector, which plays a vital role in intra-EU transportation, cannot be ignored.
While some EU Transport Ministers have called for the suspension of the ETS in the maritime sector, the ETF calls on the EU Commission to take immediate measures to prevent potential job losses in European ports. Balancing environmental goals with the preservation of port workers’ livelihoods remains a top priority for the ETF.