Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Sustainability has become a key method for shipping companies to distinguish themselves in a crowded field. While the public perception of shipping involves chugging diesel engines and ocean pollution, the shipping industry actually produces far less carbon than other competing methods of transport.
Brian Ladin of Delos Shipping explains the ways in which environmentally conscious shipping companies are differentiating themselves from the crowd.
Shipping’s Low Carbon Footprint
While commercial shipping involves huge ships burning large quantities of fossil fuels, shipping actually produces the smallest amount of carbon per ton of cargo moved. Air travel produces up to three hundred times more carbon than ocean shipping when considering the relative tonnage of cargo. Industries that need to ship items should consider ocean freight for its relatively low environmental cost. However, there are many items which must be shipped more quickly so air freight is necessary.
When choosing a shipping method for goods, companies should keep the environmental cost in mind. The market is biased toward the fastest shipping methods possible, especially since the advent of companies like Amazon. Companies and consumers should consider accepting longer shipping times for their items to cut down on carbon emissions.
The Strategy Behind Sustainable Shipping
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently set goals for its overall carbon emissions. The organization agreed to cut carbon emissions by up to 50 percent by the year 2050. Only two countries objected to this deal: The United States and Saudi Arabia.
For the first time, the global maritime industry has committed itself to fight against climate change. This is in line with the Paris Agreement of 2015 targeting greenhouse emissions. The IMO member states also agreed to help developing countries meet the requirements of sustainable shipping.
What Changes Can Be Made?
Many ship owners want to know how they can adapt their practices to this lofty goal. The IMO directs its members to adjust their procedures in accordance with their new guidelines.
First, shipbuilders need to decrease the carbon usage of each vessel through energy-efficient design. A percentage of energy efficiency will be set by the IMO.
Second, the carbon usage of international shipping needs to decline, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030. Another goal of the IMO is to reduce carbon emissions by 70 percent by the year 2050.
Third, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 50 percent before the year 2050.
How Can Ship Owners Comply?
While low- and no-carbon fuels are in development, it will be many years before they are implemented on a global scale. Ship owners should be aware of the regulatory changes governing their emissions.
Changes in naval architecture will make ships more fuel-efficient. For example, hull and propeller design will mean that less energy needs to be used to propel the vessel through the water.
Polluting diesel engines are already being replaced by liquified natural gas (LNG) fueling systems. LNG fuels cut carbon emissions and provide a soot-free, sulfur-free burn.
An innovative fuel called Plaxx is also in development for use in existing diesel engines. This fuel is made from recycled plastic. It is a low-sulfur fuel with high efficiency and lower environmental impact.
Use of Renewable Energy
While small, experimental craft have been propelled by renewable sources like solar energy, it has not been tried on the scale of a large ocean-going vessel.
Traditionally, ships were wind-powered, and a newer form of wind power could be used in the ships of tomorrow. Vessels should be able to use smaller solar and wind power systems to generate energy for onboard functions in the near future. This will cut down on the amount of fuel that needs to be used.
Sustainability as a Competitive Advantage
Sustainability of ocean-going vessels is a competitive advantage. Many manufacturers have a goal of reducing their carbon footprint, and ocean vessels are a good choice for this purpose since they have such a low ratio of carbon emitted per ton of shipping weight. Even trucking has a higher carbon ratio than ocean shipping. When manufacturers choose more efficient shipping companies, they will be supporting the health of the environment as well as cutting down on their own costs due to increased efficiency.
Sustainability Sets Shipping Companies Apart
Shipping companies are now able to differentiate themselves from their competitors on a scale of sustainability. Many manufacturers and distributors are attracted to the lower price and environmental consciousness of sustainable shipping companies.
When shipping companies are looking for reasons to increase their sustainability, they should be reassured that any costs they may incur while converting their vessels to a more environmentally-friendly design or fueling solution will mean greater profits down the road. Brian Ladin of Delos Shipping vouches for the benefits of environmentally friendly shipping practices.