The EESC welcomes the proposal for a Regulation on the uptake of renewable and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport and amending Directive 2009/16/EC (the "FuelEU Maritime Regulation proposal"). This proposal is aimed at contributing to the EU climate neutrality objectives by 2050 by setting up an EU fuel standard with increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity requirements and accelerating demand of renewable and low-carbon fuels (RLF) in the maritime transport sector.
The EESC considers that the proposal for a regulation of the European Commission should be harmonised with the regulations of the International Maritime Organization, due to the international nature of shipping, including those related to the safety of fuels used by ships. At the moment, international shipping is fossil-fuel captive. Full decarbonisation requires alternative, low-carbon or zero-carbon marine fuels and/or breakthrough propulsion technologies, to become widely available. Close cooperation with all stakeholders in the maritime cluster and supply chain is necessary to ultimately reach this goal.
The climate carbon neutrality objectives of the Green Deal and the ambitious "Fit for 55" legislative package are desirable in the context of efforts towards greening and eventually decarbonising the maritime sector along other sectors, while at the same time respecting the social dimension of this transition in the best interests of the general public. In other words, this energy transformation and transitional process towards the decarbonisation of shipping can only be successful if there is social acceptance, whilst the modus operandi of shipping and other sectors are safeguarded.
The EESC notes that the impact of the FuelEU Maritime Regulation proposal on shipping is disproportionate compared to other industries: short-term measures into 2030 are adequately described, but long-term changes that will deliver the bulk of the reduction in greenhouse gases in 2030-2050 are still largely target-shooting, comprising technologies that have not yet been developed, let alone matured. Hence, a certain degree of flexibility should be built into the regulatory parts of this proposal in order for the industry to be able to adapt to it. Concentrated support for R&D is urgently needed to accelerate the knowledge building, thus moderating risks.
The EESC believes that under the scope of the "Fit for 55" legislative package, the FuelEU initiative needs to provide synergies, coherence and consistency between supply, distribution and demand. However, the draft FuelEU Regulation, at the moment, prescribes particular low carbon fuels, with no prior assessment of their global availability and cost, although all alternative fuels should be allowed. This may eventually lead to distortion of competition, while their availability presently and for the near future is negligible. The responsibility for the development and availability of renewable alternative fuels lies with the fuel suppliers and the uptake of cleaner fuels should be encouraged. For this to happen, the price gap between fossil and alternative fuels needs to be bridged and the cleaner fuels need to become more affordable and widely available. Efforts are required, involving the active contribution of all actors in the maritime value chain, especially fuel production and energy providers, engine manufacturers, but also ports, charterers and the workers' representatives involved in all sectors. This could potentially result in an increase of the demand for alternative fuels as envisaged by the FuelEU Regulation.