ETS: EU modal shift policy goals at risk in case of different timing and modalities between sea and road

This evening EU negotiators (the Council, the Parliament and the Commission) will reach a provisional compromise agreement on the inclusion of maritime transport in the ETS (Emission Trading System, part of the Fit for 55 package) based on a de facto understanding reached last week. Acknowledging, in part, the requests for correction supported by Assarmatori, the agreement, compared to the European Commission’s initial proposal, should envisage exemption from the scheme until 2030 at least as far as maritime connections with the smaller islands are concerned, and the allocation of part of the proceeds to the maritime sector to finance investments in innovation, at the same time envisaging a gradual application timeframe, deferred by one year. However, a fundamental issue remains open, which will hopefully be solved in the coming days, namely the alignment within the ETS between maritime and road transport.

For months, Assarmatori has been insisting on the need to protect the Motorways of the Sea from the risk of reverse modal shift, i.e. from sea to road, which would result from an increase in costs and, consequently, lower competitiveness, resulting from the inclusion of maritime transport in the ETS. This risk would be even higher in the event of a temporal disparity in the application of the two schemes.

In this regard, Assarmatori welcomes the position adopted by the world ferry organisation INTERFERRY, which, espousing the demands highly recommended by the Association for months, calls on the EU negotiators to guarantee uniformity in time in the ETS between the two modes of transport in order to avert the modal back shift from sea to road. Such a scenario would in fact nullify all the policies implemented over the last twenty years, at national and European level, which have incentivised, also economically, maritime connections as an opportunity to decongest roads and thus reduce emissions. The European Commission itself, in its study on the impact of the ETS, has hypothesised the application of the scheme to the two modes of transport with a similar timeframe.

“We want to launch a final appeal to the EU negotiators not only in view of this evening’s meeting, which should provisionally close the maritime transport chapter,” commented Assarmatori President Stefano Messina, “but also of the forthcoming sessions in which the unresolved topics related to the entire ETS proposal will be discussed: the European Union has set ambitious modal shift targets from road to short sea shipping (25% and 50% by 2030 and 2050, respectively). The achievement of these targets would be seriously jeopardised in case of inconsistencies in the application and timing of the ETS between sea and road, as INTERFERRY clearly has underlined. Therefore, it has to be reiterated that the timing of the application of the ETS for maritime transport, in particular for the Motorways of the Sea services, and that for road transport must be coordinated and aligned in order to prevent dangerous and potentially irreversible modal shift phenomena opposite to the EU objectives, supported for decades”.