Editorial: Shipping’s green course corrections

Global maritime freight movement needs to get greener, but the costs and complexities of turning that ship around will require commitments from far more than major ocean cargo carriers.

Among the main challenges in charting their course to decarbonization is the need to start that journey today to meet the International Maritime Organization’s carbon neutrality targets in 2050. Options to achieve that neutrality depend on technologies that are largely unproven in deep-water shipping, which transports approximately 80% of all goods worldwide.

Also, the infrastructure needed to supply most alternative fuels on major shipping lanes is not yet in place, and the huge investment needed to build that infrastructure and develop alternative fuel technology for the global marine cargo sector will not directly increase revenue for ocean carriers.

Meanwhile, uncertainty in an already volatile business has been exacerbated by COVID-19’s impact on international trade.

Add in the need for marine cargo movers to digitize their businesses to remain competitive, and the challenges in what is a capital-intensive business multiply exponentially.

Maersk and some of the sector’s other major players are proactively addressing their environmental and technological issues, in part because they make financial sense in the long run.

But regardless of how much progress container shipping companies make environmentally and operationally, they won’t be able to reach carbon-neutral objectives without the collaboration of fellow shipping magnates, governments and, more importantly, the commitment of all players along the supply chains they service.

Consumers at the end of those supply chains have a key role to play, because paying what will initially be a premium for greener goods movement will turn the tide in its favour.

Putting money where mouths are takes discipline, commitment and collaboration at every level. All three are in short supply today, but all three are needed now in more than environmental arenas.