Sustainable Shipping: How do we Shape the Future of Shipping?

By Bronagh Loughlin 

Overseas shipping is the most popular method of transporting materials and goods internationally. In the UK, 90% of what the country consumes has been imported from other countries. This is not just referring to consumer goods but also to dry bulk goods from timber to grain and coal for power stations.  

Unfortunately, while shipping is an efficient form of transport, it has a massive impact on the environment. Shipping is a massive sector. There are around 100,000 ships that account for 3% of greenhouse gas emissions. In GDP terms, shipping would be the sixth largest country in the world. 

Shipping is an area we need to target when it comes to the sustainable transition. The positive side of this is, with COVID-19 forcing us to rethink how we should be doing everything, we have been blessed with an opportunity to find ways to make the shipping industry more environmentally-friendly.  

There are many ways we can adopt sustainable shipping. We can make use of inland barges. Barges designed for canals and rivers emit less pollution, increase safety and have a higher capacity for weight.  

An additional benefit is that they lower congestion. Countries can spend billions of euros on infrastructure issues that are inherent with methods of transportation like regular shipping lines or cars and inland barges involve less of a budget.  

Another way to make shipping sustainable is applying modern updates to equipment. Most shipping liners have older designs and means of operation. For example, a newer ship may use solar power for energy. An additional unique new feature is the exhaust scrubber.  These tools mix the water or caustic soda with the exhaust from the ships. The process removes a large portion of polluting particles in the exhaust. Port management is another area where we can make shipping sustainable.  

Productively and efficiency can help. By using space and resources wisely in the port, management will run smoothly. This will cut down on losing time and other resources due to errors. Environmental impact reports are also essential. These reports show how to lower emissions and improve sustainability. 

Similarly to how there are modern resources to help the shipping industry, there are also subtler ones. One way is through the shape of the ships. Improving the shape of the hull to sail more smoothly in the water enhances speed and ultimately helps to lower emissions. 

Paint can also benefit hydrodynamics. A majority of ships use standard paint, however, ones that are biocide-free work better with marine life and improve fuel efficiency. This cost-effective tool can really help shipping to get one step closer to being more sustainable. 

The oil that many ocean liners use, pollutes the oceans and the air. By phasing this out for better alternatives, we can make shipping sustainable. Hydrogen fuel works much better and is a greener option. Just as cars are electric, ships can be too. Battery-powered ships are an excellent example of a greener option. 

Whilst packaging of items is a significant issue that has a large impact on the environment, how products and goods are shipped, is also crucial. Since the shipment of products and goods has such a large impact on the environment, targeting this area and making shipping sustainable would be a massive leap towards a more sustainable world.  

We should take the great opportunity COVID-19 has presented to re-think our current systems, try out new models that are in line with the environment’s needs and develop our ultimate sustainable shipping system.  



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