Sustainable shipping

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print

How has the growth for the necessity of sustainable shipping impacted the ocean maritime sector and what are companies doing? 

Ocean freight is essential to international trade. The OECD says that around 90% of traded goods are carried over the waves. Although shipping goods is an extremely effective method of transportation, it does come with consequences and issues. As shipping becomes more utilised, it’s carbon footprint and impact it has on the environment also increases. 

However, many companies are coming up with new, innovative ways to combat this. If shipping goods are going to continue to rise in popularity, this greatly increases the demand for sustainable shipping. As a society, we are becoming more aware and conscious of the effects that pollutants are having in our climate. This article takes an in-depth look at how shipping solutions have impacted the environment and what companies in the ocean maritime sector are doing. 

The importance of sustainable shipping 

Awareness for climate change and its importance is something that most people and companies are aware of, the warming of the ocean is a huge contributor to climate change. The ocean has absorbing properties meaning that it can absorb excess heat in the climate system. The ocean covers 71% of the earth, so it’s no wonder the condition of the ocean plays such a crucial role on the earth’s overall climate. Cargo vessels require a lot of energy to move such a heavy weight across a long distance.  

Maritime transport is responsible for almost 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization. It produces one billion tons of CO2 each year. Ships usually still use heavy fuel oil and produce carbon emissions, which link to climate change and ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is the decrease in the pH value of the ocean, caused by the increase of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It also increases the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed. Ocean acidification makes it harder for marine organisms to form their shells and skeletons- their existing shells may begin to dissolve. 


The shipping sector uses much less refined or processed fuel types. Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is the main fuel used by oceangoing deep sea vessels, a fuel which is characterised by a very high viscosity and high sulphur level. HFO is extremely popular within the shipping industry, this is due to the fact that it is much cheaper than alternatives. However, HFO has a detrimental impact on the environment and sea life. HFO has a viscous and sticky consistency, making it much harder than crude oil to collect during a spill. HFO doesn’t easily break down in the ocean and sticks to surfaces like sea ice or sink and emulsifies in sea water. It also becomes more toxic when exposed to Ultra-Violet light and can be absorbed by organisms, increasing their mortality. According to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO), greenhouse gas emissions from shipping in 2050 could be 40% higher, The IMO has set a target to instead cut those emissions by at least half. As awareness surrounding the danger of HFO and other chemicals increases, companies are looking for safer alternatives.  


To read more exclusive features and latest news please see our February issue here.

Media contact

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, International Trade Magazine
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

Subscribe to our newsletter

Don't miss new updates on your email