Impacts beyond land: Shipping and the marine environment - AJ

Impacts beyond land: Shipping and the marine environment


This is Part 2 of a 4 post series on the Sustainable Oceans Summit held in Halifax from Nov. 29-Dec. 1st 2017.

This is Part 2 of a 4 post series on the Sustainable Oceans Summit held in Halifax from Nov. 29-Dec. 1st 2017.

As stated by Cristiana Paşca Palmer, executive secretary of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity, business and sustainability are no longer adversaries. Rather, biodiversity must underpin economic growth, both on land and at sea. The need for a business-environment partnership was a highlight at the World Ocean Council’s Sustainable Oceans Summit, held last month in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the theme of ‘Sustainable Development Goal 14: Business Leadership and Business Opportunities’. Leaders representing nearly every facet of the blue economy, from oil and gas to financial institutions, came together to discuss topics such as data collection and sharing, technological research and design, and cross-sectoral collaboration. As is the way with most talk around sustainability, what many of these conversations boil down to is impact mitigation, or at the very least, reduction.

While it’s one thing to talk about impact reduction, making it happen is an entirely different thing. I found that this summit particularly excelled in its heavy engagement with the shipping industry in an attempt to move toward more sustainable practice and design. Considering the economic importance of the transportation sector to the blue economy, it was only natural that the shipping industry was both well-represented and well-referenced throughout the three-day conference. In the shipping world, invasive species, noise pollution, water pollution, noxious emissions, and energy consumption are all given due consideration.  The role that industry can play in SDG 14 was largely discussed in the context of technological innovation and establishing and regulating sustainable best practices.

In case you missed the summit, here are some of the ways global business leaders, researchers, and entrepreneurs are working to enact change, through both technology and regulation.

On the technological side, Tai Chong Cheang presented its plasma ignition technology, which reduces fuel consumption and NOx, Sox, CO2, unburnt hydrocarbon, and particulate matter emissions. Similarly, the conversion to liquid natural gas, or LNG, fuel has become a popular means for vessels to reduce their emissions and cut costs along the way. The conversion to LNG can be applied to existing vessels as a retrofit or incorporated into new builds. Over 100 vessels are currently using LNG (mostly in  Scandinavia). Another up-and-coming technology eliminates operational discharge of lubricating oil from vessels’ propeller shafts, by replacing it with seawater..

On the regulatory side of things, one of the most exciting projects on the horizon is ‘GloFouling’ – a joint venture between the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations, and the Global Environment Facility. Building off of the GloBallast project, GloFouling will work with 12 developing countries to develop effective national strategies on biofouling (a major contributor to the transfer of invasive species). GloFouling will likely be carried out over the next 5-7 years.

While programs like GloFouling address sustainability strategies at a national level, shipping businesses are increasingly making themselves ‘greener’ voluntarily. Beyond the corporate image associated with environmental best practice, vessels performing at or above standards can receive financial benefits like reductions in port fees or priority access to loans. Complementing these benefits are certification programs that reward social and environmental best practice (e.g. Green Marine Environmental Program, the Clean Shipping Index, the Environment Ship Index).

Although maritime shipping is the most efficient mode of transportation, the sheer volume of goods transported on a day-to-day basis makes the conversation around ‘green’ shipping an important one to have. If you’ve ever wondered how consumerism adds up, around 1 tonne of cargo is transported per person on earth annually, totaling over 7 billion tonnes in a year. And although it was inspiring to hear about the potential for new technologies and practices to produce positive change, reducing emissions or energy consumption is not a stand-alone solution.

Something I failed to hear throughout the three days at the Sustainable Oceans Summit, and not just as it relates to shipping, was the obvious solution: reduction. Understandably, businesses do not want to lose out by cutting back unnecessarily – instead, they will continue to grow, relying on technologies and practice to even the score. But by changing our values and consumption patterns, we, the consumers, can make up the difference that technology can’t.

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