The urgent need for decarbonisation and circular use of resources in shipping and the necessity to act against pollution from both plastics and chemicals and threats to biodiversity within coastal areas have been stressed in a report.

According to global forecasts, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the world's maritime fleet increased by 23% from 2012 to 2022, and a further 4.7% between 2020 and 2021. If countermeasures are not put in place, these emissions are projected to rise by an alarming 44% by 2050, said Arthur D Little (ADL), the world’s first management consulting firm in its new viewpoint, titled "Creating A Greener Future for the Blue Economy".

Three of the top five issues impacting the port and maritime industry are related to environmental risks, a position that has remained unchanged over the past five years, the report said.

The pressing need to reduce emissions requires a significant increase in efficiency and circular use of resources and the adoption of lower-carbon fuels.

Environmental degradation

Nowadays, mankind uses 1.8x the biological resources that the earth generates every year, leading to environmental degradation of the blue economy. In regions across the world, including the European Union, stricter regulations and the introduction of mandatory requirements for the use of renewable fuels are catalysing the shift towards a net-zero and circularity-oriented shipping industry.

The viewpoint emphasises the necessity for the industry to comply with increasingly stringent safety and environmental regulations, and meet the growing demands for greater sustainability.

To achieve these goals, an ecosystem-based approach is crucial, with ports and maritime operators playing a pivotal role in creating a sustainable future for the blue economy.

Carlo Carlomagno, Partner at ADL Middle East, said: "In the face of mounting environmental risks, it is imperative that the port and maritime industry takes decisive action to address the urgent need for decarbonisation and circular use of resources. A significant enhancement in efficiency and the adoption of lower-carbon fuels is crucial with stringent regulations propelling the transition towards a net-zero shipping industry. By adopting a collaborative and ecosystem-based approach and recognising the indispensable role of ports and maritime operators, we can chart a course towards a sustainable future for the blue economy."

Customer demand and sustainability

As consumers increasingly prioritise sustainability, businesses are under growing pressure to achieve sustainability targets and demonstrate ethical behavior throughout their supply chains.

This demand for greater sustainability extends to the maritime industry, with prominent organisations committing to zero-emission shipping by 2040. Failure to decarbonise maritime transport could result in the loss of major cargos, further emphasising the need for the industry to rapidly align with sustainability goals.

In addition, the blue economy, which aims to harmonise economic growth with environmental sustainability, is rapidly gaining traction worldwide. However, without immediate action, the unique challenges faced by the port and maritime industry, such as biodiversity loss, pollution, resource depletion, coastal livability issues, and noise pollution, will persist.

The sector must enhance collaboration and proactively address these environmental risks to secure a sustainable future for the blue economy.

Ethical behaviour

Carlomagno said: “The increasing focus on sustainability by consumers has placed a growing burden on businesses to achieve net-zero targets and exhibit ethical behaviour across their supply chains. Moreover, the concept of the blue economy, which seeks to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability, is gaining tremendous momentum on a global scale. Without immediate action, the port and maritime industry will continue to face numerous unique challenges, including biodiversity loss, pollution, resource depletion, coastal livability issues, and noise pollution.

“To secure a sustainable future for the blue economy, the sector must prioritise enhanced collaboration and take proactive measures to address these pressing environmental risks.”

Ports and maritime governing authorities must leverage their pivotal role in influencing the sector, pushing and supporting all stakeholders in the development and integration of their sustainability strategies, through a roadmap of initiatives and projects across four key strategic principles: Energy transition & climate change resilience; Environmental protection; Circularity; and HSE risk management.

Global movement towards net-zero shipping

As the world moves towards a more sustainable future, a greener maritime industry vision has gained momentum in the GCC region. In Bahrain, APM Terminals Bahrain's Green Initiative aims to achieve a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through solar power projects and operational efficiency improvements.

In Oman, the HYPORT Duqm project aims to generate renewable energy through green hydrogen and green ammonia production. Collaborations at the Port of Duqm and the establishment of the Sohar Net-Zero Alliance demonstrate Oman's commitment to carbon neutrality. Saudi Arabia is making progress through alliances exploring carbon sequestration opportunities and sustainable ship waste recycling.

The viewpoint underscores that through collective action and a comprehensive approach, which includes regulatory harmonisation, the introduction of innovative technologies, and sustainable practices, the shipping industry can achieve the net-zero emissions necessary to ensure a greener future in the blue economy. 

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