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European Commission Shows Support for Finnish Low-Emission Ships

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January 30, 2013

The European Commission (EC) has agreed to a Finnish incentive program for investment in greener ships.

The EC has found that amendments to this existing scheme are in line with European Union (EU) state aid rules. The Finnish incentive program was initially approved in 2011.

The amendments provide funding for the acquisition of new ships or adaptation of old ships to promote stricter environmental standards than those currently in force in the EU.

In particular, the amendments aim at giving ship-owners incentives to use less polluting fuel, ahead of the entry into force of EU standards to that effect.

This will promote the adoption of low-sulphur fuel in the two years before new regulation comes into force. From January 2015, ships in the Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA), which includes the English Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, will be required to burn marine fuel with a sulphur content of less than 0.1%.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, said: “This Finnish scheme demonstrates how the current state aid rules can be used for encouraging the maritime industry to adapt to stricter environmental rules ahead of their entry into force”.

Finland’s Minister of Transport Merja Kyllönen said in September that “rapid action” is needed to help the maritime industry adapt to the low-sulfur rules.

Several shipowners in the region have already invested in cleaner technology. Earlier this month the M/S Viking Grace cruise ship entered service between Finland and Sweden, powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). The builder of the vessel called it the “most environmentally friendly large cruise vessel ever built.”

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