International agreements on sustainable maritime transport

The government is working with the maritime sector and other countries to arrive at agreements on sustainable maritime transport. The aim is to reduce pollution caused by seagoing vessels and use the sea and ports in a sustainable way.

Government policy is largely based on agreements with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the European Union, and is set down in the Dutch Maritime Strategy 2015-2025.

Measures to combat the harmful effects of ship emissions

Exhaust fumes from the engines of ships can cause localised air pollution due to the emission of sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. Ships also emit CO2 and thus contribute to global warming as well. Global agreements have been made to combat these harmful environmental effects.

  • From 2025, all new ships must be at least 30% more energy efficient than they are today (on average).
  • All ships must record and report extensive information regarding their fuel consumption.
  • The IMO (a specialised agency of the United Nations) is drawing up a plan to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • From 2021, new ships on the North Sea must emit 70% less nitrogen oxide than in 2016.
  • From 2020, ships must only use fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5%. On the North Sea, the limit has been a maximum of 0.1% since 2015.

Preventing waste discharges

Ships may not discharge waste at sea. At European ports, ships are obliged to turn over their waste and pay a waste treatment fee.

Combating the spread of exotic organisms present in ballast water

Ballast water is the water ships use to remain stable at sea when they are not fully loaded. The international Ballast Water Agreement states that ships must have a ballast water treatment system to purify ballast water of exotic organisms. These treatment systems can prevent the introduction of exotic organisms into waters where they do not occur naturally.  

Clean and safe disposal of ships

The EU Regulation on Ship Recycling contains requirements for ships that sail under the flag of a European country. These requirements will go into force no later than the end of 2018. Only ship recycling companies that fulfil strict environmental and working conditions requirements will be permitted to dispose of these ships. The requirements will prevent companies from disposing of ships under conditions that are harmful to people and the environment.

Global agreements have also been set down in the Hong Kong Convention. This convention has not yet entered into force.