Shipping and sustainability

Sustainable shipping initiatives

Environmental performance of shipping continues to be an area of increasingly intensive scrutiny, which has driven governments, ports and shipping operators to focus on ways of improving the sustainability of the shipping life-cycle and initiatives that encourage them to do this.
‘Sustainable shipping initiatives’ refer to innovative schemes that encourage shipping to go beyond standard compliance of environmental behaviour and become exemplary in their approach to shipping operations and the environment.

The Global Sustainable Shipping Initiatives: Audit and Overview 2011 report updates research conducted in 2004 and highlights the fundamental changes to sustainable shipping initiatives since then.

An audit of the initiatives suggests that they fall into one of four categories. 
  • Research and innovation: high or low technological investment responses, led by classification societies and shipping companies. These encourage the design and implementation of improved or cutting-edge environmental management technology. 
  • CSR and marketing: achieving accreditation for high specification equipment and high quality operational management, led by port states and international shipping bodies. This is encouraged through economic rewards and external recognition.
  • Awareness raising and environmental education: delivered through a number of more holistic and proactive initiatives. These are co-ordinated by NGOs and/or are driven by operators and owners to enhance CSR.
  • Voluntary class notations: through which the classification societies promote their own schemes and initiatives.

It is concluded that despite the increased drive for sustainability within all areas of the shipping industry, fragmented initiatives remain the predominant response with only a few focusing on a more holistic approach.

In order to mainstream sustainable shipping initiatives and achieve universal acceptance and participation, it is important to look at shipping from an inclusive perspective. Existing global sustainable frameworks such as The Marine Stewardship Council and The Forestry Stewardship Council could provide examples of good practice that may apply to shipping in respect to a holistic and global sustainable approach.

With this as a leading hypothesis, future work for phase two will commence with research that outlines the key global sustainable frameworks currently in operation. These will be investigated, compared and presented in relation to their applicability to the shipping industry.

Currently sustainable shipping initiatives are predominantly piecemeal, and there is a need for incentives to be rationalised, effectively articulated and presented as an accessible package.

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