Is Sustainable Ship Management the Future of the Maritime Industry?

Each year, approximately 90% of global imports and exports are transported by the maritime industry. Without doubt, it is one of the world’s most essential trade and transport sectors.

This industry has been at the forefront of global trade and communication for thousands of years and has always needed to be proactive in adapting to new needs, conditions and opportunities.

In the 21st century the maritime industry is incredibly broad and diverse, operating globally and employing millions of individuals. For these reasons, any type or amount of change in the current climate can potentially feel laboured and slow.

But for all organisations working in the maritime industry making real and progressive movements towards more sustainable practices is absolutely vital.

Sustainable ship management is a positive and exciting opportunity. A chance to lead on innovation and best practice when it comes to choices and methods that benefit customers, crews, business and the environment alike.

The effect that humans have had and continue to have on marine environments is undeniable. Although this includes more than the maritime industry, shipping and travel by sea and waterways are a huge part of this impact and also, potentially a large part of the solution.

For each aspect of the marine industry, new, more sustainable practices have to be part of every conversation on development, investment and management from this point onwards.

So, is sustainable ship management the future of the maritime industry?

To answer this, we need to examine and understand the complex nature of the issue at hand and recognise the potential positives as well as the possible pitfalls.

Can ship management have a role in sustainability? First of all it’s important to understand what is meant by ship management.

Understanding ship management

The term ship management essentially covers all the operational procedures and the running of a sea-based vessel. Although some organisations handle the management of their own ships, in recent years employing an experienced ship management company has become standard practice.

Specialist ship management organisations cover all the tasks and responsibilities associated with the safe and efficient running and upkeep of a vessel and their services are a huge part of global maritime business. Playing a vital role in this essential sector, they oversee all services connected with a vessel; securing the reliable and safe movement of cargo, seafarers, passengers and personnel.

Importing and exporting goods by sea has become increasingly complicated over the past half a century. The growing popularity and importance of ship management services has developed in response to the multifaceted complexities of moving goods and people across the globe.

As the need for their services has grown, so has the call for environmentally focussed, sustainable business practice across the industry. Changes in ship management processes to more sustainable ones are at the front and centre of future planning for these types of organisations.

A large number of ship-owning businesses and operators are looking to ship management companies for solutions that are more robust, sustainable and future-proof. To ensure the continuation of safe, efficient shipping and sea travel.

Can ship management really be sustainable in the future?

The most simple and sensible answer to this question is yes. Ultimately, sustainable practices in ship management should and indeed must be the future. The most pressing of these issues is tackling the sector’s reliance on a dwindling supply of finite resources including fossil fuels.

The understanding of and growing call for sustainable solutions in all areas of the maritime sector have risen exponentially in the past decade. Human global impact on seas, rivers and waterways of all types is in the news almost constantly and practices must shift to mitigate potential future damage whilst protecting and elevating the world’s most essential way of moving people and goods across the globe.

Ship management companies have a crucial and complicated space in this sector, with much of the demand and expected innovation and behavioural ‘sea-changes’ resting on their shoulders. But it is a position of vast importance and great potential, with the opportunities to shift habits, address difficult but vital questions and become world-leading specialists in sustainable maritime and ship management practices.

It is predicted that over the coming decade, the maritime sector will need to revolutionise its approaches in many ways to ensure the safe and sustainable continuation of services. They will need to focus on a sustainable future not only ship management but in all areas of the industry.

All global maritime stakeholders will need to play their part in this evolution.

The future of sustainable ship management

Addressing fossil fuel concerns

By far the greatest and most pressing issue of creating a sustainable future for the industry, is reducing, minimising and finally eradicating its reliance on dwindling finite fossil fuels resources and its subsequent CO2 emissions. Decarbonisation is the biggest, most urgent and also the most complex challenge faced by the maritime industry.

At time of writing, the sector produces 2-3% of global CO2 emissions. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), has set targets to halve the sector’s carbon emissions by 2050 (compared with levels recorded in 2008). The ultimate aim being the elimination of carbon emissions altogether. 

In an attempt to kick start change and open conversations on the issue, a number of ship management companies have already created and implemented solutions that will assist vessel owners and operators to reduce their fossil fuel consumption and their CO2 emissions. They have achieved this by offering strategies that allow for better fuel consumption and planning using innovative planning tools and software.

Planning for a sustainable future

Digital dashboards and up-to-the-minute data and reports are not necessarily new in the ship management side of the sector, but they are now assisting in the fight for a more sustainable future in the industry.

They can be used to achieve expert planning and precision preparation, limiting any unnecessary fuel consumption or spending on resources. Mitigating both environmental impacts and ensuring a more efficient and economical service that runs smoothly.

Any maintenance or regular service work can be planned and undertaken with minimal disruptions to customers and service. Making sure that ships are safe and sea-worthy in this way also means that issues at sea which are costly to owners and the environment are dramatically reduced.

If you are a ship owner looking seriously at the sustainability of your industry and services, detailed analytics and improved fuel efficiencies will ensure the effective management and security of your vessels going forward.

Final Thoughts

In this sector as in many others, true sustainability is achieved with a ‘trickle down’ effect emanating from robust future planning and initiatives coming from the top.

Ship management companies have a crucial role to play in this top down implementation of sustainable solutions. If the targets set out by the IMO are to be achieved by 2050, large-scale changes towards sustainability will be essential in all areas of the industry.

Expert ship management services offering advanced analytics, software and fuel management strategies will find their services called on by more and more forward thinking organisations looking for a more sustainable future.

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