Actions Needed for Sustainability in Maritime Transport - Part 1

Actions Needed for Sustainability in Maritime Transportation – Part 1

Shipping is responsible for 90% of global trade, as it offers the most cost-effective method of global transportation today. However, with constant tradelines zipping across the seas, the adverse impact of shipping has also caused unprecedented pollution.

Given that maritime transport is the lifeline of the food, trade, and manufacturing industries, the community must continue to use this method without impacting the environment. This is where the concept of sustainable maritime transport comes into the picture.

What is Sustainable Maritime Transportation System?

Before we understand what is Sustainability Maritime Transportation System, we need to understand the idea of a Maritime Transportation System and what it entails.

The Maritime Transportation System is a part of a larger logistics chain that operates across the oceans, facilitating the distribution of goods over huge distances. It is subject to a complex array of laws, policies, and regulations, on a national and international level. The movement of goods through the maritime transportation system depends on the economic, social, and environmental responsibilities of the nation. Consequently, a cohesive development of all these aspects ensuring the present needs without compromising on the future can be termed as Sustainable Maritime Transportation System.

An efficient and well-structured system is a must to ensure continued sustainability, growth, and prosperity. We need to examine and optimize each and every link in the system chain to make sure that sustainability is maintained in every aspect, hence making the chain resilient.

The IMO has taken several steps in this direction, issuing laws and edicts to lead the global shipping industry towards a sustainable future.

Key Elements of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System

Sustainable maritime transport depends on many factors, to deliver safe and reliable transport of goods while minimizing pollution, achieving energy conservation, and ensuring maximum efficiency. To achieve these ideals, there are some principle elements of a sustainable maritime transportation system that need to be in place.

These include:

  • Well-organized Administration

Governments that support global standards and institutions that provide the relevant technical expertise are the foundation of a well-organized administration. Going a step ahead would be to appoint a recognized authority for inspection of compliances and mandatory surveys, conducted on behalf of the government.

  • Support from On-shore Facilities

The efficiency of the maritime transportation system depends on the support it receives from on-shore facilities. The information and assistance provided by these entities, such as navigational aids, search and rescue services, meteorological data, cargo, and logistics-handling methods, and more are imperative for the smooth functioning of the vessel.

  • Qualified and Skilled Workforce

One of the major challenges faced by the maritime industry today is to attract and retain a skilled workforce, comprising of professionals with the right attitude, motivation, and knowledge of upcoming technologies. Creation of a rewarding work environment is one of the ways to attract this workforce, which in turn will impact sustainable maritime transportation.

  • Equal Global Standards

When it comes to global compliances, it is imperative to have supporting standards on a national level to ensure that global safety and environmental standards are followed. We can do this by addressing the operational and technical requirements of ships and by training crews for better efficiency.

  • Security

Maritime terrorism and global piracy are the leading causes of threatening maritime security and which have an adverse impact on the sustainability of maritime transportation. Ships do not have a natural self-defense mechanism against these threats, however, it is important for governments to find effective solutions to ensure that the integrity of the maritime transportation system is preserved.

  • Sound Financial System

Sustainable maritime transportation evolves with development in the socio-economic and environmental aspects of sustainability. A sound financial system helps to cope with these changes and effectively allocate resources gearing all three pillars towards advancement.

  • Adoption of New Technologies and Operational Practices

Adoption of new technologies and operational practices is a must in this ever-changing scenario of technological progress. The Sustainable Maritime Transportation System must continuously implement practices that will help in achieving better efficiency and reaching higher environmental targets.

Given these principles, there are certain actions we need to take to achieve the sustainability goals set by the IMO.

Actions Required for Achieving Sustainable Maritime Transport

The process for establishing a sustainable maritime transportation system begins with increasing the awareness about the system and the opportunities it provides. That being said, there are several actions that can be taken towards doing so. These include:

  • Safety Culture and Environmental Stewardship

Maritime safety culture is an integral part of building a sustainable transportation system because it facilitates safe and secure global trade. The IMO has a multitude of conventions that promote resource conservation, the safety of maritime professionals, and reduction of pollution while advocating seamless transport to the corners of the globe.

The primary goal of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System is to promote a safety culture built on global standards and their mandatory enforcement. The need of the hour is to go beyond mere compliance and deliver added value to the members of the system by emphasizing on safety.

The secondary goal of the system has to be the minimization of the environmental impact of shipping and other activities that are currently causing the majority of the damage. In addition, the drive for sustainability should be seen in the acceptance and implementation of global environmental safety standards. This will lead to an overall increase in the prevention of maritime pollution and protection of the maritime ecosystem.

  • Education and Training in Maritime Professions

The advancement in technological sectors is only going to keep increasing in the coming years. The development of newer and more efficient techniques and gadgets needs to be complemented by an equivalent increase in the training and education of maritime professionals.

The first aim of a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System is to create skilled and tech-savvy professionals. This training material should be frequently updated and revised based on the latest developments in the sector and refresher courses conducted as necessary. Environmental awareness should be a primary concern in these developments.

One of the primary reasons why there has been a significant drop in the number of people joining the maritime sector is the strenuous lifestyle involved. The Sustainable Maritime Transportation System needs to take into account the physical, mental, and recreational needs of seafarers and accordingly create favorable policies that will allow for a happier and healthier lifestyle.

In addition to training sea-going professionals, the on-shore professionals must be trained as well. All the members involved in the primary and auxiliary fields of the maritime industry, such as legal, engineering, port activities, ship management, etc. need to be equally aware of the developments in the maritime world and have hands-on experience in managing the new systems and technologies.


The maritime industry is evolving rapidly with the continuous advancement in technology. Achieving a Sustainable Maritime Transportation System is a global endeavor, which requires an equal contribution from all the leading shipping nations and companies across the world.

Here we have seen the two actions that can be taken towards developing a sustainable maritime transportation system. However, there are several other steps that can be taken for the same. We shall see some of the others in the upcoming article. Till then, share your thoughts on creating sustainability in maritime transport in the comments section below!

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