Sustainability in the maritime industry by 2030

The word “sustainability” has become very popular, and industry worldwide is beginning to recognise its importance. Steps are being taken to fight against global warming, to reduce carbon emission or footprint and to find alternative materials that are recyclable and more environment-friendly. 

What, though, does “sustainability” mean?
One definition, and a good one for our purposes, is “meeting our needs today without sacrificing potential future generations’ abilities to satisfy their needs tomorrow.” 

The maritime industry is involved in many initiatives to attain sustainability by 2030, but there is still a long way to go. However, the industry should certainly succeed in substantially reducing its carbon footprint by 2030, with current measures like focusing on energy savings, reducing environmental impact by introducing renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy and investing in energy-efficient technology like hybrid propulsion systems, and also bringing in new and improved vessel designs. Another increasingly common step is to employ automation and digitisation to streamline processes and reduce emissions and fuel use. 

Some other specifics
As well as all that, though, are these absolute essentials, each of which is a vital part of this effort:

  1. to reduce hazards and safeguard the well-being of employees, stakeholders should emphasise implementing strict safety rules, invest in cutting-edge equipment and provide the necessary training in that;
  2. fair employment practices, such as total abolition of discrimination and provision of equal opportunities and attractive pay, should become standard industrywide;
  3. diversity and inclusion, which very clearly foster a positive workplace culture and improve overall performance, should also become standard;
  4. a better work-life balance – including where possible flexible working arrangements – improved access to healthcare services and better wellness initiatives and psychological support would greatly enhance seafarers’ quality of life, and also productivity, and hence improve employee retention and thus continuity.

Core needs, with education absolutely key
With much of the industry still largely self-regulated, a clear and comprehensive regulatory framework is needed, or there will obviously continue to be great inconsistency in all of the above, and also in wider social responsibility. Governments, environmental organisations and all marine industry stakeholders must come together to sort out standardised regulation.

The substantial resulting costs, for which many businesses are still wholly unprepared, present another difficulty, and governments, financial institutions and international sustainability organisations will need to provide financial support. 

The maritime sector must also address what is still inadequate education and awareness about sustainability and its importance and potential long-term benefits. Any stakeholder without that cannot even make a start. More widely, as it has been said, it “would be like tossing money into the sea and expecting [the industry] to become better on its own if we didn’t invest in education or educating ourselves”, and “promoting sustainability requires spending on awareness and education initiatives”.

To motivate stakeholders to take action and support sustainability, businesses should invest in education and awareness-raising programmes, also promoting their professional development and adaptability in a changing industry.

The marine ecosystem
This is a huge topic, but just to take one particular aspect, the noise from shipping is one of several factors that significantly affect the marine habitat. According to a European Economic Area assessment it interferes with the communication and behaviour of much marine life. The same EEA research also emphasised the significance of implementing environmental laws and incentives to move the entire maritime sector towards more environmentally-friendly practices. 

To reduce our industry’s ecological impact, it is crucial to implement rigorous environmental legislation, employ eco-friendly technologies and promote ethical waste management. Furthermore, adopting transparency and having high moral standards along the entire supply chain will result in ethical sourcing, respect for compliant suppliers and effective combat of unethical behaviour. 

I see 2030 not as a deadline but as a waypoint along the pathway to complete sustainability, when commercial success, social responsibility and environmental protection will co-exist. 

To achieve this, and to come near it by 2030, means tackling the vital issue of human sustainability, for which stakeholders must create a long-lasting and encouraging work environment by prioritising the welfare of seafarers, advancing fair labour practices and funding personal development. This needs to be meshed with environmental sustainability through integrating renewable energy sources, prioritising energy efficiency, cooperating with regional communities and taking better care of the marine ecosystem, all within, and by means of, a full and properly focused matrix of rules that apply to all. 

Second Officer Karthick Ramalingam, “EVER GREET”