Shipping Industry Leading the way in Sustainability

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(Image Courtesy: Environmental Leader)

Maritime transport is fundamentally important for sustainable development and the world economy. Maritime transport is international in all aspects and not just the shipping industry and composed of various players and stakeholders including the shipbuilding industry, maritime equipment manufacturing industry, finance and insurance industries, classification societies, ship owners, seafarers, shippers, trade industry, oil and energy industries, ports, navigation infrastructures, maritime administrations, port State authorities, coast guards, Governments and international organizations.

Sustainable Maritime Development

In the preparation of the concept of “Sustainable Maritime Development”, all these stakeholders should be involved and their views should be reflected in the concept.

Sustainable development, as defined by the UN, is made up of three components or ‘pillars’: environmental, social and economic which are all inextricably linked.  Being, by far, the most environmentally efficient means of commercial transport, the shipping industry also offers high employment standards compared to many shore based industries.  This is reflected by the recent entry into force of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention governing seafarer’s employment standards.

Compliance with new rules presents a challenge for shipowners trying to finance the retrofitting of expensive new ballast water treatment systems that will be required in the next few years, and the investment required for other green technologies to meet demands from regulators and charterers to reduce CO2 emissions.

Shippers’ Goals and Financial Feasibility

If a shipowner orders a ship, in good faith, with an expected life span of 25 years or more, only to find that the goal posts have changed a few years later, the business of owning and operating ships, in fair competition with others, becomes a jackpot.  If, as a result of new rules on retrofitting, perfectly sound ships have to be scrapped early and replaced with excessive newbuilds costing many millions of dollars each, this is not a rational use of resources, either economic or environmental.  Whatever the marginal environmental advantages that the latest ships may have, the environmental impacts and CO2 emissions involved in building and scrapping them is rarely taken into account.

While shipping’s regulators have a responsibility to protect the environment and the interests of wider society, they also need to be practical and have an understanding of the impact that their actions can have on the industry’s own long term sustainability, especially if the ‘compelling need’ for potentially very expensive proposals has not been properly demonstrated.

It is hoped nevertheless that one of the outcomes of IMO’s new focus on sustainable development is that all proposals for any future IMO environmental regulation will be shown to meet existing IMO criteria for compelling need and be subjected to a full and proper cost benefit analysis, in a similar manner to proposals relating to the improvement of maritime safety.  Such cost benefit analyses should include comprehensive impact studies and assessments of whether effective technology is available in order to implement the proposed regulations, especially if they are to be applied to existing ships, as is the case with the new ballast water rules.

The Ocean, an environment to be preserved

Healthy oceans and their biodiversity are essential for the ecological and climatic balance of our blue planet.

The stakeholders of the maritime economy, who are the hardest hit by these changes, know full well that the sea is a promising but fragile environment. So they have rallied together in a quest for constant innovation to reduce the impact of their activities and also to find solutions for preserving or restoring ecosystems. They believe that it is possible to find a balance between economic development and ecological sustainability, which will allow an equitable exploitation of the oceans and their resources by present generations, without endangering these resources for future generations.

Sea News Feature, October 23

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