Environmental discount system for navigation charges

Study to develop proposals for the introduction of an ecological component in navigation charges on the Kiel Canal.
8 February 2023
Kapt. Runa Jörgens

Kapt. Runa Jörgens

Leiterin Themen und Projekte/Referentin Schifffahrt

Telefon: +49 40 9999 698 - 71
E-Mail: Joergens[at]dmz-maritim.de

Johannes Puckelwald

Johannes Puckelwald

Referent Volkswirtschaft

Telefon: +49 40 9999 698 - 79
E-Mail: Puckelwald[at]dmz-maritim.de

Bernhard Weidenbach

Bernhard Weidenbach

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

Telefon: +49 40 9999 698 – 73
E-Mail: Weidenbach[at]dmz-maritim.de

The Kiel Canal (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal/NOK) is of outstanding importance for freight transport in Germany and Europe. Fees are levied for travelling through the canal on the basis of the Ordinance on Navigation Fees on the Kiel Canal (NOKBefAbgV) of 28 September 1993. These have not been significantly increased since their introduction. The Bundesrechnungshof (the federal court of audit) has assessed the NOKBefAbgV and as a result has called for an increase in fees.[1] The Audit Committee of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, did not comply with this demand, but instead ruled out an increase in levies until 1 January 2028 in 2019 due to various construction works on the canal.[2] Since then, there have been various discussions about the construction of the NOK’s navigation charges.

There is a proposal from the maritime industry to foster the sustainable modernisation of ships by means of a discount system for public waterway usage charges (i.e. also for charges for navigating the NOK). The introduction of an ecological component in the calculation of navigation fees by the federal government or the states could create an incentive to invest in sustainable technologies. However, a sustainable modernisation of ships will require considerable investment and lead to increased operating costs for the shipping industry.

The coalition agreement for the 20th legislative period (since October 2021) provides for the promotion of alternative drives and fuels.[3] The responsible Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport has declared its willingness in principle to examine a discount system with an environmental component for the NOK.

In addition to the fees, other factors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have had an impact on the use of the NOK by the shipping industry and thus on the federal government’s revenues. During the COVID-19 pandemic, traffic on the NOK sharply declined from spring 2020 onwards. In order to stabilise traffic on the canal, the Fifth Ordinance Amending the Ordinance on Navigation Charges on the NOK of 21 July 2020 [4] temporarily suspended the levying of the charges until 31 December 2021.[5]

The study has been commissioned to develop proposals for the introduction of an environmental component in the navigation charges on the NOK. This component may relate to aspects of general environmental protection (keeping air and water clean) as well as to aspects of climate protection (reducing greenhouse gas emissions).

Possible existing regulations in other states within and outside the EU are to be included as well as already existing discount systems in seaports. Discounted navigation charges are intended to provide positive incentives for more environmentally and climate-friendly ships. The development of proposals for discount systems is the central objective of the commissioned study. Penalty-based systems are expressly excluded from consideration.

The criteria for the granting of discounts should lead to no or only little additional auditing of water vessels and no or only little monitoring efforts for administrative bodies. The discount system is intended to be comparable to other discount systems already in place in the North Sea and Baltic Sea region. Additional cost burdens for shipping and for canal-based port and industrial companies should be avoided. At the same time, the study should consider the effects on federal-level revenues in Germany. The study should develop different discount systems and formulate a well-reasoned recommendation for one specific proposal/variant.

The German Maritime Centre commissioned the study “Introduction of an Ecological Component in Navigation Charges on the Kiel Canal (NOK)”.

This was a public invitation to tender in accordance with the Sub-Threshold Contracting Regulations (UVgO). The Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL) was awarded the contract on 31 January 2023. The period of performance is 9 months.

[1] Bundestagsdrucksache 19/170 No. 14; [2] Non-public meeting of the Audit Committee on Friday, February 22 2019; [3] “Dare to make more progress. Alliance for Freedom, Justice and Sustainability”, Coalition Agreement 2021–2025 between SPD, Bündnis90/Die Grünen and FDP, p. 42; [4] https://www.bundesanzeiger.de/pub/publication/H17s2MSe4tnHrkr2c9U/content/H17s2MSe4tnHrkr2c9U/BAnz%20AT%2022.07.2020%20V1.pdf?inline; last accessed 28 October 2022; [5] https://www.wsa-nord-ostsee-kanal.wsv.de/Webs/WSA/WSA-Nord-Ostsee-Kanal/DE/0_Startseite/Aktuelle_Meldungen/Aussetzung_der_Befahrungsabgaben_NOK.html;jsessionid=F6A16916749142CB757761DA2AAA7FD8.live11291?nn=1726232, last accessed 28 October 2022.

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