Greece doubles down on decarbonisation commitments

The Greek shipping community, the powerhouse of the global maritime industry, made a resolute commitment to decarbonise its operations and support international policies geared towards sustainable and viable solutions in the Union of Greek Shipowners’ (UGS) latest annual report.

Embracing the mandates laid out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UGS said that Greek shipowners’ dedication to combating global warming is evident in their belief that regional measures – which fail to acknowledge shipping’s international nature – hinder maritime transport and world trade, thereby impeding the collective fight against climate change.

The UGS added that the maritime sector, acknowledged as a hard-to-abate sector, necessitates a delicate balance between ambitious goals and practical feasibility.

Recognising the intricate interplay between energy supply, demand, and environmental concerns, the UGS report underscored the significance of a comprehensive approach to decarbonisation.

As shipping gears towards a greener future, the development of next-generation zero-carbon fuels and propulsion technologies becomes pivotal. In this context, the UGS takes a technology-neutral stance while favouring drop-in fuels compatible with existing Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) and bunkering infrastructure.

Decarbonisation requires substantial investments in fuel production and supply infrastructure, said the report, which calls for a co-operative effort involving various stakeholders, including fuel producers, shipyards, engine manufacturers, ports, and financial institutions, to ensure the availability of safe and effective propulsion technologies and marine fuels worldwide.

The UGS also lent its support to a ‘Fund and Reward’ system proposed by the shipping industry. This mechanism, financed through contributions from ships based on their CO₂ emissions, incentivises reduced carbon emissions and rewards the utilisation of low-carbon fuels and technologies. UGS called for a technical Global Fuel Standard, similar to the IMO 2020 sulphur regulation, to supplement that economic measure in a way that minimises the administrative burden, especially on the shipping industry’s small and medium-sized enterprises.

Challenges ahead

The path towards decarbonisation is not without challenges, noted the UGS. “The package of short-term measures comes with imperfections,” said the report. For example, the IMO’s Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) framework, while well-intentioned, poses obstacles due to its operational focus, often involving decisions beyond a shipowner’s control. The UGS urged a thorough review of this framework, highlighting the need for adjustments to ensure its practicality and effectiveness.

The UGS’s report also emphasised the role of finance in propelling both the growth of the fleet and the decarbonisation agenda. The EU Taxonomy framework, aimed at directing investments towards sustainability, acknowledges shipping’s potential contribution to a climate-neutral economy. Yet, the framework’s applicability to the sector requires revision to remove constraints on vessel financing. Furthermore, the UGS report underscored the importance of tailored prudential rules for ship financing within the EU banking sector to facilitate sustainable growth.

“Τhe proliferation of regional or private initiatives concerning ship finance, which do not take into account the nature and special features of the shipping industry, create a patchwork of distinct frameworks and undermine the global level playing field,” said the report.

The UGS stressed the importance of aligning EU measures and schemes with international standards set by organisations such as the IMO and ILO to prevent undue burdens on EU shipping while safeguarding its competitiveness.

“Overall, it is vital that the international competitiveness of EU shipping is ensured, as it is exposed to fierce global competition,” said the report.

Top ranking

Reporting on fleet statistics, the UGS recorded that Greece continues to be the largest shipowning nation in the world, controlling the highest share, 21%, of the global merchant fleet in terms of deadweight tonnes.

“During the last ten years the total capacity of the Greek merchant fleet, currently consisting of 5,520 ships, has grown by 50%,” said the report. Greek shipowners excel in bulk/tramp shipping, specialising in the carrying of staples, such as grain and other agricultural products, oil and gas, iron ore, chemical products, coal, fertilisers and forest products.

“Bulk/tramp shipping has the features of an almost perfectly competitive market and shipowners are price-takers,” said the report. “The economies of the business mean that transport is provided in the most cost effective and efficient way. For example, through ever-increasing economies of scale, transport costs are kept strikingly low to the benefit of the end consumer.”

The report claimed that an average Greek-owned vessel is almost twice as big as the average vessel at global level and during the previous decade, the average size of Greek-owned ships has significantly increased, standing today at 81,395 dwt, while the world average remains far below, at 45,337 dwt. The growth in the average size of Greek-owned vessels has contributed to the optimisation of global seaborne trade and enhanced living standards, said the UGS.

Melina Travlos, UGS president, emphasised the need for unity and concerted action to navigate today’s challenges. “Concerted and concrete actions are required to maintain our historical seamanship and advance our industry, while in parallel maintaining our leadership and positioning ourselves for an ever-changing global status quo,” she said.

“It is of utmost importance that institutions legislate and function with an in-depth knowledge of the significance of shipping and of the special characteristics of our work and trade.”

“It is only with this in mind that a long-term strategy can be developed, which will viably ensure our sector’s sustainability. Being one of the truly global industries it is vital that legislation is global and homogenous, if EU shipping is going to survive in the face of fierce international competition.”
Source: Baltic Exchange (

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