T&E Highlights Continuing Rise in European Shipping’s CO2 Emissions

CO2 emissions European shipping
T&E cites containerships along with LNG carriers and cruise ships as contributing to the rise in CO2 emissions in Europe (file photo)

Published Jul 13, 2023 4:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

Harmful emissions for ships operating in Europe grew to a three-year high as the industry edges closer to pre-pandemic levels reports the NGO Transport & Environment (T&E). Performing an analysis and review of the data released under the European Commission’s Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification requirement, T&E contends the shipping industry is continuing to move closer to the point of no return in the efforts to stop global warming.

The outspoken environmental group used the 2022 data released at the beginning of July from the EC’s monitoring of vessels. They sought to adjust the historic data to reflect the change in geographic scope when the UK exited the EU and reporting in 2021. Emissions they showed have risen in the past two years from a low in 2020 during the pandemic. 

Total emissions were up about three percent in 2022 versus the prior year and are up nearly nine percent from the low point in 2020. Despite the increases in the past two years, emissions measures in metric tons of CO2 are down from both 2018 and 2019 levels. Despite being up last year, levels are still down over four percent from the 2019 peak.



“Carbon emissions are at a three-year high as shipping companies continue to go all guns blazing. Europe’s shipping giants are up there with coal plants and airlines as the continent’s biggest polluters,” said Jacob Armstrong, shipping manager at T&E. “Without stricter regulations, shipping companies will continue to spurn investments in efficiency and green fuels.”

Breaking down the nearly 130 million tonnes of CO2 emissions recorded in 2022, T&E reports containerships accounted for the largest portion or nearly 30 percent of total emissions in Europe. Bulk carriers and tankers were a distant second and third, each around 15 percent of emissions. 

The largest increases came from liquified natural gas shipments. LNG gas carriers’ emissions were up 58 percent according to T&E’s analysis. They cited Europe’s efforts at ramping up sanctions on Russian oil, and the push for more seaborne imports to meet gas needs. Similarly, cruise ship emissions were almost double in 2022 over the prior year as the industry continued to overcome previous disruptions to international travel due to the pandemic.

As expected, the largest shipping companies are also the ones T&E cites are the largest emitters. MSC, they contend is currently Europe’s 11th biggest polluter and the largest in the shipping industry with 10 million tonnes of emissions in 2022. MSC was followed in T&E’s analysis by CMA CGM, Maersk, COSCO, and Hapag-Lloyd in the list of shipping emitters.

The group does not address the potential impact going forward from either the EU’s ETS scheme due to start in 2024 or the IMO’s revised targets to cut emissions. They do highlight a small increase in port carbon emissions, saying that this could be easily fixed by greater shore-side electrification. European ports are moving quickly to expand shore power availability in response to coming mandates.

While the environmentalists highlight the growth over the past two years, industry analyst Xeneta issued its analysis showing that CO2 emissions overall were down in the container segment in the first quarter of 2023. They reported the declines were found on 10 of the 13 top ocean freight lanes. Emily Stausbøll, Xeneta Shipping Analyst, said that much of the improvements are down to carriers reducing speeds, which delivers fuel efficiency gains while also allowing them to cater to considerably lower demand in a subdued macroeconomic climate. 

Xeneta expects that the container carriers will continue to slow down the speeds of deployed ships which will also help to balance against the addition of newbuilds that were ordered over the past few years. They expect that the segment will continue to seek a balance between speed, size, and filling factor going forward which will contribute to declines in overall emissions.