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Environmental Policies: The Maritime Industry

Environmental Policies: The Maritime Industry


The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has just made a huge revelation: apparently it would take almost 50 years—half a century!—for the maritime industry to reach the levels of CO2 reductions proposed by the Paris Agreement. It is not an utter nonsense to assert that, given the size and magnitude of the maritime industry, such regulations and the times proposed to achieve significant progress regarding reductions in current CO2 emissions tend to be much longer when it comes to boats and ships. The Paris Agreement seeks to limit CO2 emissions within a diverse group of industries worldwide, in order to prevent the global temperature from rising while restricting the average increase of global temperatures to a range from 1,5º to 2Cº.

Suzzanne Uhland has previously depicted the pejorative juncture where the shipping industry is currently dwelling; it is not a secret that the industry is going through a rough time, at the very least. Besides, it would be somewhat naive and even irresponsible, to question whether today’s climate policies and environmental measures are necessary. However, to what extent these policies have affected negatively the shipping and the transportation industry in general is yet to be assessed, nonetheless, it would not be irresponsible to assert that, given the fact that these industries rely on fossil fuels as their main energy source, the degree to which such policies affect them is, at the very least, substantial.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the vast majority of nations worldwide have come up with a general outline for scheduling an ongoing reduction plan of their CO2 emissions, however, many still do not take the maritime industry into consideration, as the institution responsible for regulating this area is the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Every effort counts

The maritime industry is the most efficient industry in terms of fuel consumption, having reduced significantly CO2 emissions per ton-kilometer of cargo carried within the past years. Moreover, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) laid down a regulation demanding that ships built between now and 2025 be 30% more efficient that the ones built during the decade of 2000. Meanwhile, the MARPOL Convention still regulates 95% of the worldwide fleet. Obviously, data has been collected in order to sustain and back this premise: according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the total CO2 emissions have been reduced up to 10% between 2007 and 2012, in spite of the increase in maritime commerce.

However, although efforts to reduce CO2 emissions continue to get stronger, the limits established by the Paris Agreement prevents the maritime industry from reaching these goals in such short timeframe, which ultimately has forced the International Maritime Industry (IMO) to take additional restrictive measures, making progress much slower than what was originally stipulated. The Europe Union, for instance, has implemented a monitoring system for assessing the impact of CO2 emissions of the ships, which is now being considered by the IMO to be implemented at a bigger scale.

The gentle giant

Nevertheless, as the worldwide fleet continues to grow in numbers, it is expected that CO2 emissions will follow the same pattern, embodying, consequently, a permanent challenge. The International Chamber of Shipping has previously pointed out that, in order for these emissions to be efficiently reduced, it is necessary to implement, as soon as possible, a monitoring system capable of collecting data regarding the emissions of the ships; moreover, such system is already in the works and could be first used as of 2018. The collected data would help the International Maritime Organization develop more accurate measures for controlling CO2 emissions while complying with the Paris Agreement —and save the industry in terms of sustainability.

Be that as it may, the time factor seems to be the most visible and relentless enemy in the ongoing battle against global warming: the faster measures are developed, the lower the ultimate damage will be. But, given the fact that all industries are different in their nature, and so are their necessities, time becomes relative, as every industry requires a different amount of it for them to successfully reduce CO2 emissions, thusly making the reduced quantity subject to the nature of the business. Making it clear that the maritime industry will keep on using fossil fuels as its main source of energy, it is highly likely that it will be the last industry to reach the desired CO2 emissions levels.

Image courtesy of Ian Britton at

The most economically feasible way to conceive the long-term sustainability challenge will surely require the development and worldwide dissemination of existing technologies and new technologies. At this juncture of ongoing digital innovation, the innovation factor will be responsible for significantly improving the future performance of these technologies and, by extension, the performance of this industry as well. Environmental policies and practices are indispensable to ensure continuous improvement, however, it cannot go unnoticed that it is of high importance as well to find a solution that does not affect all parties.


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