Pioneering Sustainable Solutions to Preserve Our Oceans & Mitigate Maritime Trade Impacts

Pioneering Sustainable Solutions to Preserve Our Oceans & Mitigate Maritime Trade Impacts

By Ashok Raman, 08 November 2023

The world's oceans are the lifeblood of global commerce, with a staggering 90% of trade traversing their mighty waters.

But with great power, also comes great responsibility; today, maritime trade brings forth formidable environmental challenges – which sees the industry contributing substantially to global greenhouse gas emissions, while managing operations that inherently put marine ecosystems at risk for cross-contamination. These challenges require innovative and scalable solutions, many of which have recently started to come online after years of research and development. Thankfully, a wave of innovation is on the rise, fueled by biofuels, electrification, and other ingenious decarbonization strategies, ready to get to work to protect our oceans. 

The shipping industry contributes approximately 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, with projections predicting an increase anywhere between +50% to +250% by 2050 if left unchecked.

But it doesn't end there. Today’s ships spew forth a noxious cocktail of pollutants, from sulphur oxides to nitrogen oxides and particulate matter. These emissions have adverse effects on air quality, marine life, and ecosystem health.

Amidst the vast expanse of our oceans, tragedy can also strike in the form of shipping accidents and oil spills. Though rare, even a single incident is one too many; thankfully incidences have reduced significantly over the past decades. From the decade of 2010 to 2019, one to two large oil spills, defined as spills over 700 tonnes, stained the seas each year. 2022 witnessed four such spills, a larger number than we’ve recently gotten used to. Though we still have work to do to reduce these incidences, we can celebrate the fact that the number of oil spills have significantly dwindled from the alarming heights of the previous decade, when 20 large oil spills per year was not unheard of. 

Infobyte: Oil Spills Have Seen a Decreasing Trend since the 1970s

Beneath the surface, another danger lurks, hidden from most human awareness. The cacophony of noise pollution disrupting marine ecosystems generated by ships create underwater noise that disrupts the lives of marine mammals, fish, and countless other species. Migration patterns are thrown into disarray, communication is hindered, and feeding behaviors are distorted. There is real healing in silence.

In addition, ships are major culprits of introducing invasive species into new ecosystems through ballast water discharge. Every year, a staggering 10 billion tonnes of ballast water, carrying an estimated 7,000 aquatic species, traverse the globe. The consequences can be quite dire, as foreign invaders wreak havoc on delicate marine ecosystems, disrupting the delicate balance of life. But we possess the power to stem the tide.

Enter the vanguard of change. Biofuels, electrification, and hybrid technologies emerge as beacons of hope in our battle for a greener future. By harnessing the power of advanced biofuels, ships can drastically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, choosing a path that leads to cleaner, readily available alternatives. The electrification revolution surges forward, propelling vessels powered by batteries or fuel cells, free from the shackles of direct emissions. Electrified ship motors are also significantly quieter, decreasing the noise pollutions on our oceans. Though not all ports offer the adequate infrastructure as yet, more and more are investing in shore power connections that enable vessels to embrace clean electric power during berthing. The winds of progress are at our backs, ready to carry us to a sustainable horizon.

Infobyte: GHG Reduction Targets Set by IMO

Infobyte: % Reduction in CO2 Emissions Using Alternative Fuels

Trade, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in supporting food security in multiple ways, falling under three broad categories: 

To read more about the power of sustainable trade in the race to net zero – read the full report here.

Related Report

Sustainable International Trade for a Resilient Future

With many countries committing to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, there is a race against the clock to upgrade the world’s energy and trade infrastructure to achieve this. In this report, we highlight strategies used by trade stakeholders worldwide to foster a sustainable future, focusing on decarbonization, energy and food security, and environmental impact mitigation.

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