The Value of Sustainability in the Shipping Industry

4 Factors That Prove the Value of Sustainability in the Shipping Industry

One of the most-discussed topics in the shipping industry today is that of sustainability. We see a growing awareness in the maritime world about the need for sustainable shipping and the various ways to implement the same.

However, to many of us, the direct value of sustainability is still not clear. While we are aware of the large-scale impact sustainability can have, the advantage of a sustainable future on a personal level is still unfathomable.

The main point of consideration is that sustainability acts as both, a challenge and an opportunity, in the maritime sector. The IMO has proposed several ambitious targets for shipping countries, starting with the sulfur cap by 2020, the target for 40% improvement in ship efficiency by 2030, and the target for 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

With these historic resolutions, the maritime industry is making it clear to the world that the fraternity as a whole is working towards global climate control and aiding the efforts towards mitigating the disastrous effects of climate change.

The Value and Scope of Sustainability in Shipping

When we talk about the value of sustainability, we cannot think only about how green the industry is currently. Here, we need to factor the costs and benefits of sustainability for the future as well. Hence, achieving sustainability becomes an independent, long-term goal for every organization.

The scope of sustainability in the organization is dependent on many socio-economic and market-related factors that together serve to define the sustainability goals of that particular institution. As the impact of these factors is different for every organization, the sustainability objectives differ from company to company. Nevertheless, there are common areas of development for every company that can be targeted in the journey towards sustainability. These include:

  • Compliance with Environmental Regulations

Every country in the maritime world, barring a few exceptions, has agreed to the global conservation goals of 2020, 2030, and 2050, as mentioned above. Consequently, every shipping company within these countries has now adopted these goals on a personal scale and is working to achieve their individual targets, so as to be able to reach the cumulative target set for the country as a whole.

Shipping transport companies all over the world have taken this need for compliance very seriously and are, in fact, proactively discussing initiatives for increasing organizational sustainability. The Sustainable Shipping Initiative is one example where industry leaders have come together to chalk out a dynamic roadmap that targets the improvement of every compliance-related aspect of the company.

For instance, some of the goals of the SSI are to proactively contribute to the responsible governance of the oceans, build a reputation of trust and responsibility through their work, aim for better, sustainable decision making through transparency and accountability, and develop financial solutions that reward sustainable performance.  

Furthermore, it also focuses on creating a sustainable work environment, which we shall see next.

  • Creating a Sustainable Work Environment

Based on the idea of ‘as within, so without’, it is safe to say that unless sustainable practices are adopted on the level of the shipping workforce, these principles will not reflect in the industry as a whole. The working staff of a company is an extremely important factor of the organization; hence, it is a given that creating sustainability within the workforce becomes a prime requirement of creating sustainability on a larger scale.

The value of a sustainable work environment can be seen in the form of increased productivity, greater transparency, higher trust, and better safety for workers. One of the ways of achieving this is by making use of technology to assess existing work conditions and modifying them as required to meet ergonomic standards. In addition, improving vessel design and increasing vessel efficiency can also go a long way in creating a safe and sustainable environment for seafarers.

  • Increasing Vessel Efficiency

When it comes to increasing vessel efficiency, the scope for and value of sustainability is tremendous. Overall vessel efficiency is the product of several factors such as effective exhaust gas cleaning systems, use of cleaner ballast water, use of alternative fuels, leveraging natural resources for power generation, reducing marine litter, improving ship recycling processes, and more.

Ship energy efficiency is a particularly hot topic in the maritime world and countries all across the globe are investing in research and development to meet the energy standards mandated by the IMO for vessels. The Energy Efficiency Design Index implemented by the IMO from 2013 sets a minimum energy-efficiency limit for every ship, especially in the heavy tonnage, energy-intensive segment. Keeping sustainability as the ultimate goal, this limit requires engineers and ship designers to come up with innovative ways and use sustainable alternatives to achieve the said goals.    

  • Use of Sustainable Alternatives

Use of sustainable alternative fuels has emerged as the leading solution to curbing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the sustainability goals for the maritime sector. Use of renewable resources for power generation, hybrid and automated vessel designs, and advanced scrubber, propeller, and rudder systems are coming into the picture. LNG is touted to be the fuel of choice, along with ongoing research for better fuels.

Research and innovation are playing a key role in industry initiatives that aim to reduce environmental impact and making vessels more environment-friendly and sustainable.

Case in point – Eco Ship NYK’s Super Eco Ship 2030 is a concept ship said to be the container vessel of the future. The Eco Ship will cut down on carbon emissions by reducing the weight and draft of the ship, hence requiring lesser fuel.

In addition, all power generation onboard shall be through renewable solar and wind sources, which will power the navigational equipment. The total reduction in carbon emissions is expected to be over 69%, making it one of the cleanest ships to sail the oceans in the near future.

Despite this scope for sustainability in shipping, the road is not completely smooth. There are several factors that hamper widespread adoption of sustainability in shipping, such as lack of awareness, inadequate technology, reluctance for investment, irregular training of personnel, lack of familiarity with advanced technology, and many more.

However, seafarers and all other members of the maritime industry are working together towards overcoming these challenges and sailing towards a sustainable future.


There is a recurring realization that sustainability matters, at a global and at a personal level, and hence, every member of the maritime ecosystem is ready to take the first step towards sustainability.

Organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council, Forest Stewardship Council, and Green Globe Organization are helping companies understand and adopt sustainable frameworks and implement best practices for sustainable shipping.

What are your thoughts on the scope for sustainability in shipping and the value it adds? Drop a comment to let us know!

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