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Zero Carbon Shipping: An Ocean of Opportunities for the Maritime Sector

zero carbon shipping

Within the lifetime of today’s new vessels, the industry must decarbonise and shift away from fossil fuels as its main source of energy. Despite legislative, financial and technical uncertainty, zero-carbon shipping and the decarbonisation of the industry as a whole present an ocean of opportunities for the maritime sector.

Currently, the maritime industry relies heavily on oil, a high-carbon fossil fuel, to ensure the continued efficiency and productivity of vessels, ships and other crucial infrastructure throughout the sector. With the industry under increasing pressure to curb its greenhouse gas emissions and implement more sustainable practices in its day-to-day operations, many are asking how the maritime sector could possibly decarbonise when it plays such a serious role in the global economy. This is where zero-carbon shipping comes in.

With many ports and shipping companies already driving economic growth all over the world, introducing more sustainable practices such as green corridors and zero-carbon shipping has the potential to spark more investment in renewable projects. Although historically, the maritime sector has not been in the spotlight when it comes to preserving our planet, the decarbonisation of the sector could be the engine that drives green development across the world’s major industries.

So what is zero carbon shipping? And perhaps most pertinent, is it possible in today’s fast-paced world?

What is zero-carbon shipping in the maritime sector?

Although the maritime industry plays an undisputed role in the global economy, the sector is facing its largest generational challenge yet: decarbonisation. Although decarbonising the entire maritime sector sounds impossible, zero-carbon shipping and the decarbonisation of the maritime industry play an important role in creating a more sustainable future.

Zero-carbon shipping is a global concept currently being discussed and rolled out across a number of different sectors and industries. In the maritime sector, it refers to a deliberate decrease in greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the industry as well as a reduction in its environmental footprint – hence the name zero carbon.

Why is zero-carbon shipping important?

More than 90% of the world’s trade is transported via ships and vessels employed by the maritime sector so when it comes to taking steps towards environmental sustainability, simply putting a stop to global shipping is not a viable solution. As a result, zero carbon shipping, also known as sustainable shipping, is also seen as playing an important role in the decarbonisation of ship management services and other marine-centric solutions we rely on to keep the world’s economies ticking over.

A catalyst for change

Historically, the maritime sector has not really been in the spotlight when it comes to the environment. However, with discussions around the transport industry and the steps needed for improved sustainability, it won’t be long until its close cousin, the maritime sector, becomes the focus.

The decarbonisation of the maritime sector could become the engine that drives green development across the world. With the costs of net zero carbon energy technologies falling, the production of sustainable alternative fuels is increasingly competitive. Collective action across the sector could also boost global confidence in the future of more sustainable fuels and practices, which historically have not been considered due to high costs. As demand for zero-emission fuel rises through the global supply chain, the implantation of zero-carbon shipping could also catalyse more change and accelerate a broader transition to more sustainable energy consumption across the maritime industry as well as a number of related sectors across the world.

A pledge to decarbonise

With many ports and shipping companies already underpinning the economic growth of countries all over the world, introducing more sustainable practices such as green corridors also has the potential to drive investment in renewable projects.

At the moment, international shipping emits 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. To decarbonise the maritime industry and curb emissions resulting from the shipping and transportation sector, the International Maritime Organisation has agreed to reduce emissions by at least 50% by 2050.

To reach this ambitious goal and make the transition possible, commercially viable zero-emission vessels and ships now legally must start entering the global fleet by 2030. This will require both the development of sustainable vessels, the implementation of more sustainable practices on board and the decarbonisation of both the supply chain and the carbon-heavy fuels the sector relies on. Although ambitious, it is believed that zero carbon shipping can be achieved through the collaboration of businesses and parties with a vested interest in the industry, as well as collective action between the maritime sector, the energy sector and the financial sector, as well as international governments and intergovernmental organisations.

Final thoughts

So what is zero carbon shipping? And perhaps most pertinent, is it actually possible?

With many international ports and shipping businesses already major contributors to economic growth worldwide, the introduction of more sustainable practices, such as green corridors and zero-carbon shipping, has the potential to spur additional investment in renewable projects. This means that although the marine industry has not received much attention when it comes to protecting the environment to this point, the decarbonisation of the sector may be the catalyst for green development and growth across the world’s major industries.

Currently, the marine sector relies on oil, a fossil fuel with high carbon content, to maintain the productivity and efficiency of ships, vessels and other essential infrastructure both at sea and on land. Given the pressure on the sector to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and adopt more sustainable practices in its daily operations, many are already questioning how the marine sector could possibly decarbonise when it plays such a significant part in the global economy. Zero-carbon shipping is the first of many solutions.

At the end of the day, despite political, financial and technical uncertainty, the maritime sector must decarbonise and transition away from using fossil fuels as its primary source of energy – and within the lifetime of today’s new vessels. Zero-carbon shipping and the decarbonisation of the industry present an ocean of opportunities for the maritime sector.

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