The tax that the Government is preparing to tax polluting emissions from cruise ships, container ships and other large ships “would not have a deterrent effect” on tourism. This is how Eduard Torres, president of Turisme de Barcelona, expresses it, a consortium in charge of promoting tourism in the city.
Torres maintains that the implementation of the new tax is inserted within a social trend that “places sustainability at the center of activities: a trend that will become more intensified”, while policies in favor of cleaner mobility grow with proposals that put a “fence around all polluting activities.” Torres highlights that Barcelona registered a total of 3 million cruise passengers in 2019. In 2022, there have been 25% fewer visits, “but the economic figures have been similar, despite the fact that there have been fewer visitors.” “We need tourists who come not only to walk along the Ramblas”, he highlights. A pact reached in 2018 in Barcelona limits the space for cruise ships.
Elena Seco, general director of the Association of Spanish Shipowners (ANAVE), rejects this legislative initiative. She argues that shipping is global in nature; and for this reason, the United Nations has entrusted a specific agency, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), with the task of drawing up and agreeing on international conventions to achieve maritime legislation that is as uniform as possible among all countries, “in order to prevent each country or each port has its own different regulations”.
For this reason, it suggests that the standards be established in the context of this organization, which has established some regional regulations on maximum emissions for certain pollutants, but as a technical requirement, without being imposed… “If each port of each country had its own tax regulations, this business would be very difficult to manage,” Seco told this newspaper.
Warning about side effects
Salvador Guillermo, director of the Economy at Foment del Treball, warns that this new tax may have “distorting territorial side effects”, which is why he suggests that, instead of “punishing a specific activity”, preventive actions” of the contamination. “We are not supporters of new tributes. Catalonia is already a pioneer due to the high number of taxes in various areas. Fomento does not want more taxation, which affects competitive capacity”, since “for the most part these taxes do not exist in the other autonomous communities”. “The situation of 2023 -low growth of the Catalan and Spanish economy- is difficult enough to further increase costs…”, he stresses.
This is a tax so that whoever pollutes pays. If not, then we cannot be surprised that fines arrive from Europe
The Government will implement this new tax to tax pollution by nitrogen oxides and particles from large ships; and with it he expects to raise between 9.7 million euros -in 2023- and 34 million by 2026.
However, this estimate may vary depending on two factors: one, the final figure will depend on how the ships’ emissions evolve (“if there is a tax, the shipping companies may send less polluting ships here”, say Government sources); and two, the types of tax, which is subject to an evaluation that will be carried out three years after its implementation.
The income will serve to nourish the resources of the fund for the protection and improvement of air quality, created in the 1983 law.
This is one of the taxes agreed between the Government and the Commons within the framework of the agreement to carry out the budgets for 2023. However, it does not have the support of the Socialists.
In this sense, sources from the Commons regretted the position of the PSC and considered it unjustifiable, given the pollution problems in the cities and when this initiative emanates from the Canvi Climàtic law of 2017, which obtained a broad consensus.
Does the PSC support the tax on pollution from large ships? “Not like that!”, replied the deputy Jordi Riba, who argued that his formation is in favor of a “global, broader approach, not improvised, and not based on pieces”, although he did not specify if there were underlying reasons or if He was in favor of a law to group all environmental taxation.
“It is a tax so that whoever pollutes pays; If not, we may be surprised that later fines arrive from Europe for the pollution we have”, stated a spokesman for the Department of Economy and Hisenda.
Transport and Environment ask to include sulfur oxides
The environmental organization Transport and Environment (T&E), valued “positively” that the Generalitat has recognized the need to “regulate polluting emissions from maritime transport”, since this is “one of the sectors most backward in the ecological transition”.
However, this organization points out that one effect of this regulation is that it will make liquefied natural gas more “competitive”, one of the fossil fuels “with the greatest climate impact”, for which reason “another specific regulation would be needed to penalize LNG and promote hydrogen”, explained Carlos Bravo, a member of T&E.
Bravo points out that the tax will only be applied to emissions in ports, so its impact would not be significant on the global activity of maritime transport, but rather on ships that spend more time in port (cruise ships or bulk carriers).
Transport and Environment expresses its fear of an interpretation that is too flexible in relation to the exemptions to this tax for ships that provide a public service. “It is not clear if (the bill) refers to public service contracts or simply public service obligations”, which could lead to “generous” declarations of public service routes…
Likewise, Bravo sees the bonuses for scrubbers or gas scrubbers as unjustified (scrubbers), “a patch that is causing additional problems.”
T&E understands that the future law does not regulate sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions due to the upcoming protected atmosphere area in the Mediterranean (IMO Med SECA; which will enter into force in 2025), which will force these emissions to be reduced ships, but believes that this is not an obstacle for not also including a tax for SOx emitted by ships in port even if the amounts of money collected are smaller.
This organization demands that the Generalitat promote before the World Maritime Organization the declaration of a protected atmosphere zone for the Mediterranean to reduce admissible emissions of nitrogen oxide. And it suggests that the income obtained could also be used to promote clean fuels (hydrogen…)