JANUARY 23, 2013 — The European Commission has found amendments to an existing Finnish scheme supporting investment in cleaner ships to be in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the amendments aim at giving shipowners incentives to use less polluting fuel, ahead of the entry into force of EU standards to that effect.
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".
The Commission authorized the initial Finnish scheme in 2011.
In 2012, the Commission adopted a new Sulfur Directive. The amendments notified by the Finnish authorities aim at adapting the existing scheme to the more stringent rules on sulfur limits in marine fuel that will apply as from January 1, 2015 in the Sulfur Emission Control Area (SECA) which includes the English Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.
In particular, the amendments allow, under certain conditions, financing the acquisition of new ships or the adaptation of old ships, provided they operate under stricter environmental standards than currently in force in the EU.
The Commission says theaid provides a real incentive and is necessary to achieve the intended objective: it will result in bringing forward by up to two years the use of less polluting fuel in ships.
No aid will be granted after the entry into force of the new standards. It is therefore in line with the EU Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection.