Towards Maritime Industry Sustainability by 2030


Our industry plays a crucial role in global trade and commerce, transporting over 80% of the world’s goods. However, it also has a significant impact on the environment and on human sustainability. So it is vital not only for worldwide trade but also for the lifestyles and well-being of millions of people. To address both these key matters it needs to modernise by adopting sustainable practices that reduce its carbon footprint, minimise waste and pollution and prioritise the welfare of its workforce. By 2030, sustainability in the maritime industry should be much more advanced, with a range of initiatives and practices that support environmental, economic and also social sustainability.

If the industry intends to improve its approach to human sustainability by 2030, certain determinants must be considered in order to make the necessary progress, and significant action is required by stakeholders industrywide.

Environmental sustainability

The shipping industry is responsible for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the IMO has set a target to reduce these by 50%, compared to 2008 levels, by 2050.

To achieve this the industry needs to shift towards renewable energy sources and alternative fuels, such as liquefied natural gas, biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells. Additionally, implementing energy-efficient technologies like slow steaming and hybrid propulsion systems can also reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Use of green energy will help reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality, which also has obvious and likely immediate health benefits for crew and people living near ports. In addition, the adoption of green energy sources will reduce the industry’s dependence on fossil fuels, which are finite and always subject to price volatility.

To get there, industry stakeholders need to take concrete actions such as investing in research and development of clean energy technologies and implementing policies that incentivise adoption of low-carbon fuels. They should also invest in retrofitting existing vessels, so as to reduce emissions and support the development of a circular economy that prioritises reducing waste and recycling materials.

Another challenge is the need to protect marine ecosystems. The industry must adopt practices that minimise pollution, such as the proper handling and disposal of waste and the use of non-toxic paint. It must also adopt effective waste management practices, again such as recycling and reduction, to minimise impact on the ecosystem and the environment.

Economic sustainability

The maritime industry must also become economically sustainable by 2030. 

This means that it must be able to continue to support global trade while also operating in a financially sustainable way. One way to achieve this is by promoting efficiency and reducing costs through the adoption of new technologies and practices, by for example automation, data analytics and digitalisation. The industry must also focus on sustainability in terms of supply chain management, ensuring that all stakeholders are operating sustainably and that supply chains are resilient to shocks.

Health and medical

Stakeholders in the maritime sector should improve access to health and medical care at sea.

Seafarers are often required to travel long distances and experience completely different weather and general climate conditions than those they may have been used to, and this can give rise to health issues. Maritime organisations should therefore adopt policies that ensure suitable medical attention for seafarers during extended transit. Medical aid and treatment facilities with appropriate equipment should always be in place, and should include proper screening and testing to maximise early detection of any health-related matters. 

Innovative medical-related benefit plans and all-encompassing health insurance should be implemented to broaden seafarers’ access to adequate medical care.

Social sustainability

The welfare of seafarers is also critical. By 2030 the industry must have significantly improved its approach on this particular aspect, ensuring that seafarers are always safe, healthy and treated fairly. This includes addressing issues such as mental health and training and development. To achieve this, the industry must focus on enhancing the working conditions and rights of seafarers and providing them with the necessary support and resources so they can perform their roles effectively.

It is also essential to address the challenges of social separation brought about by the unique work-life experience of a crew. While for those ashore non-working hours might be spent interacting with family and friends, comparative isolation at sea can lead to mental health problems, some of which correlate with crew productivity. The maritime industry must deliberately focus on ensuring that seafarers both have and take up as much opportunity as possible for relaxation and unwinding in the form of face-to-face social interaction. This will doubtless require the introduction of flexible rules like ring-fenced downtime while the vessel is in port, together with specific, comfortable and well equipped rest and relaxation areas, and other facilities to ensure that every ship is an excellent place to work and to live.

Challenges and actions

One of the most significant challenges to achieving sustainability in the maritime industry is the need for collaboration. Our industry is highly fragmented, with many stakeholders, including owners, port authorities and regulators, involved in decision-making. Stakeholders across the industry must work together to develop and implement sustainability strategies and initiatives. For example, the industry could establish a Sustainability Council, bringing together representatives from all sectors in order to drive forward sustainable practices.


Sustainability is an essential issue that must be addressed so as to ensure the maritime industry’s long-term viability. By 2030 the industry needs to have made significant progress in terms of environmental, economic and social sustainability. However, achieving this requires significant action from all stakeholders, and only by working together to develop and implement sustainable practices can the industry offer, maintain and promote a more sustainable future, both for itself and for global trade.

Deck Cadet Jitendra Murgan – “CL HUAIYANG”