Shipping is fundamental to our lives, with around 90% of the EU external trade being moved by ships and more than 3.7 billion tonnes of freight a year being loaded and unloaded in EU ports. To prevent and control pollution from ships a wide range of legislation has been developed at the international level, through the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and at EU level where the reduction of pollution from shipping is an integral part of EU's maritime safety policy since its beginning, in 1993. Today, around half of the over forty EU regulatory instruments (directives and regulations) which deal with maritime safety, aim at protecting the environment. Other areas might not be subject to specific rules, but are nevertheless part of the work priorities of EMSA.
To reduce the risk of marine pollution from ships, EMSA provides technical assistance to the European Commission and the 27 European Union Member States regarding implementation, monitoring, development and evolution of relevant EU and international legislation. The three main areas of work currently include different aspect of air pollution from ships, ballast water management and the reception and handling of ships' waste.