Sustainable shipping: why does it matter?

Sustainable shipping: why does it matter?

In the week Maersk set out to completely decarbonise its fleet by 2050 DNV GL chief sustainability officer Bjørn Haugland today calls for more public and private collaboration to lead to a more sustainable shipping industry.

The drive for sustainability is rewriting the rules for all industries – and shipping is no exception. The longevity and profitability of its operators depend on a proactive approach to sustainability. Indeed, ‘business as usual’ is not an option. There is a need to change to meet new regulations and technology.

Also, consumers are increasingly understanding the impact of pollution on human health and the environment, and are demanding more transparency in everyday products and services. This societal trend will continue as the world population grows, communication technology develops and with it the need for all actors in the supply chain to meet consumer needs.

DNV GL’s Maritime Forecast to 2050 predicts the growing focus on environmental issues, decarbonisation, combined with the trends in technology, regulations and changing trading patterns, will all shape the maritime industry over the next decades. The anticipated, radical changes in the operating environment will create challenges and uncertainty for many operators. Shipping needs answers and companies that are thinking – and acting – sustainably.

For sure the nature of the industry is changing and there are many issues that could bring unwelcome disruption, but there could also be opportunities for those companies that are well prepared. This makes it all the more important to look at the market, regulatory and technological challenges and opportunities of future scenarios to make shipping fit for the future.

This can be done through more efficient operations and technologies in, for example, the following the areas:

  • Eco-efficient ship designs, better designed engines, propellers, hull forms and coatings
  • Slow steaming, speed optimisation and weather routing systems
  • Change of fuel usage from heavy fuel oils to natural gas, biofuels and fuel cells
  • Development in hybrid solutions, battery systems and ship electrification
  • Improving infrastructure to enable faster turnaround times and increase port capacity
  • Maturing technologies within scrubber and exhaust gas recirculation
  • System integrations, smart maintenance, automation and remote operations
  • Use of sensors, big data, computational fluid dynamics, performance management systems

An increasing number of companies are already taking action and adopting both technological and operational measures to become more sustainable, including NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha), RCCL (Royal Caribbean Cruises), Carnival, Maersk and Wilhelmsen to name a few.

As a leading example, NYK, one of the world’s largest shipowners, is already in the process of transforming its business to meet market and societal demands. Central to its sustainability push, NYK has established a strategy plan to 2022 that focuses on digitalisation and the environment; it is also aiming to go beyond compliance and work on all the 17 UN Sustainability Development Goals.

There are many examples demonstrating how companies can benefit from sustainable practices. However, the full potential of sustainable business models will only be realised through a broad industry collaboration involving all stakeholders in the entire value chain. Going it alone will only ever get the industry so far.

Here in Norway there’s a strong focus on green growth and the maritime sector promises to be a key area of transformation and job creation, especially in the context of the challenges presented by declining production volumes of oil and gas off the Norwegian continental shelf.

As part of its efforts to unlock low-carbon growth in the maritime sector, the Norwegian government is supporting this process through the Green Coastal Shipping Programme, which brings industries and state departments together to implement a new maritime strategy. The primary goal of the programme is for Norway to be a leader in environmentally sustainable and efficient coastal shipping.

I believe it is vital to encourage more public and private collaboration to provide new perspectives and shape the industry’s decision-making.

Regulations will actively drive greater sustainability. In addition to international regulations on emissions, it is likely that stakeholders such as bankers, charterers, insurance companies and investors will set stricter requirements for operators to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While supporting international regulations to regulate pollutants, we at DNV GL believe regulators should be sensitive to the financial impact of these requirements and work with the industry to find workable solutions that encourage investment in sustainable practices.

For sure more needs to be done to make international shipping truly sustainable. Our view is also that encouraging the industry to change has to go hand in hand with demonstrating what opportunities and solutions the changes offer and how they can help strengthen a company’s position on the market – and create value for society.

If we are to find answers to the challenges, we will only do so as part of a much broader dialogue that will have to take place between operators, regulators and society at large. Together, we must meet the challenges, and work in a collaborative, strategic manner to deliver transformative technology and solutions that will lead to a more sustainable industry.

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