Under three headings I set out what I think are the most important issues.
Minimising mankind’s CO2 footprint is one of the main challenges nowadays, and recycling, renewable energy and lessening residues are some of the solutions for this. Everyone knows generally how to recycle, but how exactly we do it will make all the difference.
A key part of recycling in the maritime industry is segregation of different types of garbage and proper collection of the garbage in ports. All this is done to some extent, but what is missing is better cooperation/connection/interface between shipping companies, governments, port authorities and also research institutes. One very wasteful thing is that, while garbage is segregated on board, when it is landed it mostly goes into the same place, or batch. After that, the garbage is again processed and segregated, which obviously means that a lot of energy (and also time) is lost in the process.
Also, in our industry, minimising residues means minimising fuel consumption whenever possible, and a key to that is proper, real maintenance of the vessel, based on a sustainability model. This starts with the human factor, continues with good spare parts and goes on into maintenance software and documentation. Whenever maintenance is not done properly it is due to lack of spare parts and/or lack of good spare parts and lack of knowledge by the crew, and the best way to tackle that would be for all shipping companies to have a maintenance model that addresses these things. If, in some cases, that means better sourcing of parts and fuller education of crew, then probably a change of mentality is needed.
Renewable energy and similar innovations are also vital, and for these to thrive we need strong connections between universities, research institutes, shipping companies and also the makers of onboard equipment, the last two of which in my view carry most of the responsibility. Shipping companies should themselves be investing in research, in for example better onboard software and hence very much less use of paper and printer cartridges, and in better equipment and hence better design and construction from the point of view of the marine environment. It is not hard to audit a vessel on this basis and the whole industry needs to get involved, so it goes a lot further than just presentations and PowerPoint slides.
There is a very important social aspect to this, too, by which I mean integrating different nationalities by providing them with the same chances, opportunities and levels of training.
In theory this has been happening for a long time, but as far as I can see for many people there has been too much emphasis on cost rather than quality. As well as language barriers there can also be knowledge differences between nationalities, and in order to attain what we call sustainability we must identify all pluses and minuses and create a proper system to correct/adjust the minuses and make it so that everyone can take advantage of the pluses.
To give a very basic example, some seafarers are better prepared than others simply because the places they have been taught at have better tools, such as simulators, which are a great advantage and cannot be replicated by any amount of other learning.
Finally, the shipping industry must become a central part of the so-called circular economy. Just now, in my view, it is only at the outside of this, and it needs to be part of a complete reversal of our using natural resources quicker than they can regenerate themselves. We are presently consuming the resources of future generations, for free in cash but at a huge cost otherwise, and this is another reason why we need a better way of recycling the garbage/residues on board vessels, and to start always by minimising consumption.
Nobody can do this alone, and nor should they have to try. What is needed is far better collaboration and closer integration between shipping companies, port authorities, universities and other research bodies, and tough and enforceable legislation to match.
Papuc Ciprian, Chief Officer on the “MAERSK CAYMAN”