The Prospects for, and Implications of, Emissions Trading in Shipping

Anastasia Christodoulou, Kevin Cullinane*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The decarbonisation of shipping has become a high priority on the environmental and political agenda. The prospect of implementing an Emissions Trading System (ETS) for shipping has come to prominence as a proposed mechanism for speeding up the decarbonisation of the industry, with the EU taking proactive action to include shipping within the EU ETS by 2023. This paper analyses and provides a qualitative review of the historical development of the discussions and actions taken at both global level (by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)) and at regional level within the EU. A SWOT analysis of the potential implementation of an ETS for shipping is then presented. The paper concludes that an ETS for shipping can incentivise greater investment in, and deployment of, green technologies that will have the effect of reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping industry. However, the speed and significance of this effect will depend upon the specific shipping market segment and the relative stage in shipping market cycles over time. It is further concluded that despite the imminent unilateral introduction of shipping into the EU ETS, it is important that the IMO continues its work to develop a global ETS that promotes a ‘level playing field’ for competition within the sector and eliminates the risk of carbon leakage.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMaritime Economics & Logistics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)168-184
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Published online: 5 april 2023.


  • Emission trading
  • Shipping
  • GHG emissions
  • Market-based measures
  • Decarbonisation

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