The Importance of Zero Carbon Shipping for the Maritime Sector

With the spotlight now well and truly on climate change, urgent action is needed to accelerate the decarbonisation of the global economy. The maritime sector is a key industry for economies all over the world, with 90% of worldwide trade transported using ocean-going vessels and ships. However, as a result of a reliance on fossil fuels among other unsustainable practices, the sector is also one of the most challenging industries to decarbonise fully.

The maritime industry must transition away from using fossil fuels as its primary source of energy during the lifetime of today’s new ships, but it must do so in the face of political, financial and technological uncertainties. Our dependence on the sector raises the question – how might the maritime industry address climate change given its critical position on the global stage? Or more specifically, how can the maritime industry tackle water pollution and lessen its environmental footprint? Zero carbon shipping is one of several solutions.

What is zero carbon shipping?

As the name suggests, zero carbon shipping aims to lessen the maritime sector’s environmental impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Zero carbon shipping in the maritime sector mainly involves decarbonising ship management and transportation services as well as other significant marine-centric operations.

As the marine sector carries more than 90% of all global trade every year, simply putting a stop to the industry is not a viable solution. The answer lies in the adoption of more environmentally friendly procedures in the daily operations of the marine sector – without harming productivity, efficiency, growth or profitability.

The maritime sector & climate change

Although the marine sector provides some of the most cost-effective and efficient ways of transporting raw materials and bulk goods, many modern vessels still rely heavily on fossil fuels. This is because although much of the maritime sector is committed to decarbonising already, the alternative fuels needed to power much of the industry’s vessels are still in development.

 As a result, the marine sector has an expansive carbon footprint, emitting roughly 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year – nearly 3% of total global emissions. If the shipping and transportation sector were a country, it would rank as the sixth-largest contributor of global emissions. What’s more, nearly 70% of ships’ emissions occur within 250 miles of land, meaning industry operations are also impacting air quality. This is especially pertinent for port cities.

Although the maritime sector is considered one of the hardest industries to decarbonise, climate change is now well and truly a focus for industries across the globe. As a result, the maritime sector is facing a once-in-a-generation challenge – decarbonising the industry and lessening its environmental footprint on our oceans and other waterways.

What are the benefits of zero carbon shipping?

Environmental advantages aside, the maritime sector also stands to benefit from the implementation of zero carbon shipping and other more sustainable practices. Decarbonising the maritime sector, particularly the shipping and transportation industry, represents an estimated $1 trillion investment opportunity for businesses and organisations all over the world. 

The transition of the maritime industry toward more sustainable fuels is likely to change the landscape of the global fuel market and create new opportunities for developing countries – particularly those with renewable energy resources and infrastructure. Investments in a more inclusive and decentralised fuel market will support the economic development of many developing countries, as well as help them achieve their transition to renewable energy with flexibility and scalability – and at a lower cost.

However, with environmentally friendly fuel still in development, it may be years before the maritime sector can be fully weaned off fossil fuels and sustainable shipping services can be implemented. So how else can the maritime sector reduce its carbon footprint?

Green retrofitting

Green retrofitting is basically the reduction of a vessel’s carbon footprint for the purpose of making it more fuel efficient and environmentally sustainable. The modifications vary from ship to ship and will range from minor upgrades to extensive overhauls of the vessel’s infrastructure. There are no set criteria defining the term green retrofit. This is because the modifications needed will depend on the vessel as well as any challenges and the project’s end goal.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that green retrofitting can attain environmental sustainability with a number of smaller, more affordable projects that do not necessarily call for a significant redesign. As a result, with the advancement of greener technology in recent years, a brand new vessel is no longer necessary to achieve environmental sustainability.

Green corridors

In a nutshell, a green corridor is when steps are taken between willing ports, owners/operators and other interested parties in a supply chain to decarbonise a specific maritime route.

Green corridors allow policy makers to create a specific ‘corridor’ with legislative measures, financial incentives and safety regulations that ensure the route is environmentally sustainable. Policy makers in the sector can also take regulations and incentives into account as a means of lowering the cost of green-fuel production, which can help to mobilise demand for sustainable ship management services as well as shipping and transportation.

Once the infrastructure to provide zero-emission fuel for one green corridor is in place, it can then be used for shipping on other, adjacent routes. As a result, green corridors can also proactively reduce emissions on other shipping and transportation routes.

Final thoughts

The maritime sector is a crucial industry for economies all over the world, transporting approximately 90% of global trade. The industry is also one of the hardest to completely decarbonise, as a result of its reliance on fossil fuels and other unsustainable practices. During the lifetime of today’s new ships, vessels and boats, the maritime sector must shift away from utilising fossil fuels as its main source of energy. However, it must do so in the face of political, economic and technological uncertainty. This is because although much of the maritime sector is committed to decarbonisation already, the alternative fuels needed to power much of the industry’s vessels are still in development.

Our reliance on the industry begs the question – given its crucial role on the world stage, how should the maritime industry address climate change? Or, to be more precise, how can the marine sector combat ocean pollution and reduce its environmental impact? One of several alternatives is zero carbon shipping.

Throughout the course of its long and colourful history, the maritime industry has successfully weathered three significant energy transitions: from labour to wind, from wind to coal and most recently, from coal to oil. It goes without saying that climate change is now firmly in the public eye, meaning action is required to accelerate the global economy’s transition to a low-carbon future. Although it hasn’t been the main focal point of environmental sustainability in the past, renewed focus on the transport sector means it won’t be long till the spotlight falls on the maritime industry.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button