6 Maritime Sustainability Trends in 2021

As we approach the end of 2020 we start to look ahead and wonder what will 2021 bring us. In truth, this year has not been kind with the maritime industry. From the international human crisis of seafarers stranded onboard due to travel restriction, to controversial IMO meetings and decisions and several major accidents, the maritime and shipping industry is moving forward to hopefully better times.

So what can we expect in terms of sustainability from the maritime industry in 2021? Here are 5 possible trends.

1. Decarbonisation will get hotter

With the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) annual meeting taking place last week not everyone is happy with the decisions that has been taken in regards to reducing carbon emissions and meeting the target of 40% reduction in GHG by 2030 compared with 2008. Most NGOs consider that IMO is not doing enough and that international maritime laws are not strict enough when in comes to cutting down on emission. The big question is: are governments afraid of regulating shipping? This debate is more likely to continue in 2021 as spirits are only getting hotter and the IMO gets pressured more and more with every month. Next year is also when the new amendments agreed by MEPC 75 will have to be adopted. If passed (and most likely they will) the shipping industry will have to assess and adjust their operations to meet the requirements of the new amendments (more exactly comply with EEXI and CII.)

2. Europe leading the way


The EU seems to have its own ambition when it comes to maritime sustainability and meeting targets. From the looks of it, the IMO regulations aren’t enough for the European Union’s (EU) ambitions thus, EU is still considering a regional Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Under the European Green Deal, the European Commission presented in September 2020 an impact-assessed plan to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target to at least 55% by 2030. By June 2021, the European Commission will have to present legislative proposals to implement the new target, including revising and possibly expanding the EU ETS so keep in eye for that.

The EU ETS is considered a cornerstone of the EU’s policy to combat climate change and a key tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively. It will only be possible if all EU members agree. If the IMO will not be able to keep up with the EU ETS guidelines that all governments approve of, there could be several regional ETSs over the next few years, causing higher costs on various trade routes.

Besides leading the way with the ETS, the European Union is also first to require that all ships under EU flag or calling in a EU port have a class approved IHM (Inventory of Hazardous Material) Part 1 available onboard meanwhile, globally, the Hong Kong Convention still waits its entry into force.

3. Old technologies in newer times (scrubber’s comeback)

Source: safety4sea

The pandemic has narrowed this year the price between heavy fuel oil (HFO) and marine gas oil (MGO) making the scrubber demand no longer an urgency. Things could change next year as Covid-19 vaccine will be available and economies try to return back to normal.

If the price gap between VLSFO and HFO grows to a level where the return on investment (ROI) for scrubbers makes sense then more scrubber installations are likely. For this to be feasible HFO, prices would have to be much lower than VLSFO prices but talking prices for next year is still early, as the new US president might have a word on it as well.

Besides scrubbers we could see more and more cruise ships using food digestors to handle their food waste, “scrubber” system for LNG to reduce methane slip and more AI to assist in navigational decision. If you are interested in the above topics, I have detailed each in a different blog post so have a look at the other articles.

4. Cold Ironing or Ship to Shore Connection

Source: wikipedia

Shipping needs more of this! According to an EPA assessment, pollutant emissions can be reduced by 98% when utilizing power form shore. The challenge is, not too many ports have this capability and mostly, only the new builds come equipped with “a plug” to connect. Plugging a ship into an electricity grid on shore is most sustainable when renewable energy sources such as wind, tides and solar were used. As per EPA, cold ironing also knows and Alternative Marine Power (AMP) can improve air quality around the ports because “shore power typically produces zero on-site emissions.”

5. Less paper, more digital

Source: dnvgl.com

More and more, shipping is turning to digitalization from customs forms to order confirmations as new trade agreements take effect. This saves time, decreases risks of spreading COVID-19 face to face, reduces reliance on paper and saves money.

As regulations get added so does paperwork. The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) is aiming to eliminate paper from shipping transactions through the use of a standard e-bill of lading (eBL). DCSA claims that paper bill processing costs three times more than electronic processing.

6. Focus on the people


They say leave the best for the last. Human wellbeing is the base and core of sustainability. Everything we do in terms of climate change, environmental regulations has in mind human wellbeing. This also include to have our seafarers able to go home at the right time and get reunited with their families, Not allowing seafarers to get home for months was inhumane and this should have never have happened, not in 2020 not when we ALL (including governments, NGOs, international organisations etc) talk about sustainability and well being. 2021 needs to fix this and make sure contracts are being respected and prompt and strict measures are being taken when they are not.

Do you agree with the above? If you think we should add something to the list please use the comment section below.

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