Maritime transport enables trade and tourism between countries. It provides and ensures energy, food and exportation/importation products. Each year, more than 400 million passengers embark and disembark in European ports and almost 90% of the EU external freight trade is seaborne. The rise in intensity of this activity affects the economy, society and marine environment. The EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy aims to protect maritime resources, encompassing all aspects of maritime transport’s relationship with the seas and oceans.
Maritime transport is crucial for economic development as it represents a competitive alternative to road transport and related congestion problems. In this sense, the European Commission is promoting short sea shipping which is highly efficient in terms of environmental performance. The EC is promoting a new European intermodal maritime-based logistic system known as the “motorways of the sea”, a more efficient, inclusive and sustainable approach than currently possible for road transport.
However maritime transport is not without its costs and several environmental impacts are associated with it including the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms by ballast water and biofouling, gas emissions, oil pollution, sludge, sewage, garbage, transport of dangerous goods, antifouling coatings and underwater noise. Furthermore, transport vessels, excluding military ships, are responsible for almost the 80% of the energy demand of the international registered fleet.
Today’s policies and strategies promote less dependency on fossil fuels, fostering fuel efficiency and the use of biofuels, among other options for improved sustainability. Maritime transport should be in a position to cut CO2 emissions by 40% by 2050 in comparison to 2005 levels. Moreover, the potential impacts of climate change on maritime transport will require new strategies for freight transport networks and facilities and even more technology-led efficiency improvements.