Shipping is one of the most important vectors of change in the European Seas. The environmental impacts can include 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.
New technology is gradually being introduced to world fleet in order to enhance fuel efficiency, including improved hulls, new surface materials and even ballast-free ships. In terms of these developments, the EC has defined a maritime transport policy until 2018 and several platforms involving the maritime industry have already started to define short and long-term objectives and implementation plans.
The three seas studied during VECTORS have very different characteristics with regard to shipping:
Western Mediterranean: the density of merchant vessel traffic in this area is particularly high. It is estimated that approximately 30% of the international sea-borne trade volume originates or is directed to the Mediterranean ports or passes through the sea even though it represents less than 1% of the total area covered by the world’s oceans.
Baltic Sea: The Kiel Canal in the Baltic is the busiest waterway in the world in terms of small and mid-sized container vessel traffic and around 2,000 ships can be found in the Baltic at any moment. The Baltic Sea, is one of the three sea basins in the world with the most urgent environmental pressures due to shipping activities.
North Sea: This sea has the main offshore oil extraction site in Europe, the greatest concentration of large ports as well as Europe’s three biggest ports, it is also an important crossroads travelled by numerous ferry routes.