Actions Needed for Sustainability in Maritime Transport - Part 4

Actions Needed for Sustainability in Maritime Transport – Part 4

“Maritime transportation is an essential component of any program for sustainable development because the world relies on a safe, secure, and efficient shipping industry.” – Mr. Koji Sekimizu, Secretary-General of the IMO on the importance of sustainability in maritime transport. Annual Symposium on World Maritime Day 2013

Heretofore, we have seen how safety culture and environmental stewardship, education and training, energy efficiency and ship-port interface, maritime traffic support, and maritime security all contribute to creating a safe, reliable, and efficient sustainable maritime transport system. Well-educated seafarers, development of alternative energy sources to improve sustainability, saving wastage of resources with holistic ship-port interface are some of the goals we have seen previously.

In this article, we address the ways in which technical co-operation and new, innovative technology are driving safety and security in transportation.

Technical Cooperation for Sustainability in Maritime Transport

The maritime world is on the brink of a major technological turnaround. Trade has been expanding exponentially, new ports are opening up, while old ports are being overhauled. The number of ships being registered every year in developed countries is increasing as the world participates actively in global maritime trade. However, the same cannot be said for developing countries.

Although there is tremendous scope for development in the growing maritime nations of the world, the progress depends on dynamic policies that are imposed by the governments of these countries. To this end, all global governments play an important role as they are the inspiration for drafting the right codes that promote maritime trade.

This is where the need for technical cooperation comes into the picture.

The logic is simple – the maritime world needs to create new partnerships for technical cooperation that will help existing programmes scale and simultaneously lay the foundation for future sustainability needs.

At the moment, a lot of effort is wasted in duplication of effort, especially since personnel are often out of sync with the others’ work. This leads to wastage of resources which is contrary to the principles of sustainability. Technical cooperation offers a solution to overcoming this problem by proposing an equal exchange of knowledge processes to ensure better productivity.

The eventual idea is to take technical cooperation beyond assistance that is merely required, addressing the actual needs of the project and its people, to ensure the proper functioning of the maritime transportation system.

Technical cooperation needs to encompass a combined knowledge pool of all hydrographic, oceanographic, and meteorological information, which will aid the effective development of all maritime and related sectors.

Some of the activities that can be carried out to reach this goal are as follows:

  • Identifying new and innovative funding sources that facilitate technical cooperation, starting with the growth of the World Maritime University and the International Maritime Law Institute.
  • Assisting the development of developing countries to come up with laws that maximize sustainable use of oceans, focusing on competitiveness, safety, security, and efficiency.
  • Set up programs to educate all maritime stakeholders about the upkeep of ship and shore facilities that improve ship safety and environmental protection.
  • Develop capacity-building delivery mechanisms based on individual country profiles and their respective roles in technical cooperation

These are some of the activities that can be carried out to successfully increase technical cooperation amongst global maritime nations and hence contribute towards creating a holistic, sustainable maritime transportation system.

New Technology and Innovation for Sustainability in Maritime Transport

Ships of the future are set to be technologically far more advanced than the wood and iron contraptions that have dominated the maritime world for centuries. This is in part due to the stringent requirements that have been imposed by the IMO for a cleaner and more efficient maritime future. As a whole, the maritime sector is driving towards sustainable alternatives to existing shipping solutions and here, technology is the biggest differentiator.

The Uljanik shipyard was once such example where scientists were researching new, innovative ways to increase ship sustainability. In this video, we catch a glimpse of how ideas like weight reduction can be implemented for heavy cargo vessels to increase their efficiency after cutting their propulsion systems. 

Meanwhile, in Spain, we see that ships are being tested in artificial hydrodynamic environments under reproduced ocean and sea conditions to see their impact on ship stability. This data is then extrapolated to full-scale ships to predict potential failures and hence, improve the sustainability of the ship. 

 Maritime Transport

Towing tank used for calm water, wind resistance, and seakeeping experiments – Source: Hydrodynamics Laboratory, Newcastle University

The continuous advancement in technology calls for worldwide sharing of knowledge, experience, and know-how, to maximize the benefits of innovation. The new technology that maximizes the safety, security and sustainability of ships needs to be shared for global growth and an increase in cost-effectiveness of the sector.

To this end, the goal for a sustainable maritime transportation system is the creation of a common platform where countries can come as equals to share their respective technological advancements, knowing that they will be used for the cumulative growth of the sector, not for selfish interests.

The development of partnerships between governments, shipbuilders, manufacturers, academic institutions, and research and development establishments across the world can lead to a technological renaissance in the maritime industry, no less than a second industrial revolution, for the combined knowledge of the maritime industry is tremendous!

Naturally, there are certain activities that need to be carried out conscientiously by all the stakeholders of the industry to achieve such seamless knowledge transfer between the involved parties. These include:

  • Showcasing existing technology and developing new standards that facilitate the growth of better technology
  • Encouraging stakeholders to use newer technology and provide appropriate feedback on their experiences and results
  • Promoting scientific research and development for innovation that promotes the sustainability of maritime transport systems
  • Creating and maintaining a database of all relevant information,  starting with new designs and technologies for EEDI compliant ships, that can be shared with all participating maritime nations
  • Encouraging partnerships between academic and research institutions to create a more skilled workforce that is aware of the need and means for sustainability in maritime transport

These are some of the activities that can integrate new technology within the maritime industry for achieving maximum sustainability in maritime transport.


Sustainability in the maritime sector is a dynamic and ever-evolving process, that requires a significant contribution from all the stakeholders of the industry. In this article, we have seen how technical cooperation and new technology can facilitate a better, more sustainable future for ships. However, there are many other factors that are equally important and play crucial roles in achieving this ultimate aim.

In the upcoming series, we shall address the administrative targets and policies that need to be in place for sustainable maritime transport. Stay tuned to explore how finance, insurance, and ocean governance matter in this journey towards a sustainable tomorrow!

In the meantime, feel free to tell us your opinions about how technology has made a difference to your company or organization and helped take you a step closer towards shipping sustainability!

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