The Mediterranean Sea is one of the busiest seas in the world, harvesting 20% of seaborne trade, 10% of world container throughput and over 200 million passengers. Furthermore, as maritime traffic is steadily increasing it adds environmental pressure, such as rising CO2 emissions, pollution, marine litter and collisions with large cetaceans, underwater noise and introduction of non-indigenous species. Container port traffic development shows a clear trend of rapid growth of the sector, which undoubtedly increases the environmental pressure and strengthens the need for a transition to a sustainable maritime.
Figure 2.8, presents the density of AIS (Automatic Identification System) signals of all vessels (including EU fishing vessels over 15m) in 2014 (Piante, C., Ody, D., 2015). Major traffic routes are dominated by crude oil shipments (that originate from the eastern Black Sea, Northern Egypt, or from the Persian Gulf via the Suez Canal) and by container ship traffic. From the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, the Mediterranean Sea recorded a rise of 58% of transit capacity, combined with an increased size of vessels by 30% since 1997, and it is expected that shipping in the Mediterranean basin will increase in the coming years, both in number of routes and traffic intensity. Maritime traffic towards and from EU Mediterranean ports will be influenced by the doubling of the Suez canal that will allow a proportional increase of the traffic, but also by key drivers such as weak oil refining capacity outlook for Europe, a changing energy mix, the global demand for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) as a fuel for maritime shipping, the implementation of Trans-European Networks, the potential designation of the Mediterranean as a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) and a limited renewal rate of the world fleet.