Sailing the Future Together: Working towards a Sustainable Maritime Industry

sustainable maritime

By John Louis B. Benito

“Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

The 1987 Bruntland Report1

As one of the sectors with a noticeable impact on the environment, the global maritime industry is reassessing its methods and has come up with a sustainable plan that will allow it to continue to connect the world, well into the future.

The movement of different world phenomena is gearing towards Sustainable Development (SD), proving to be complex for policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders alike. Since the built-up of its three interrelated pillars; social, economic, and environmental2; as well as the general settlement of its definition through the Brundtland Report in 19873; SD is the universally accepted framework for progress today. With climate change as an environmental issue being at the forefront of general issues in the past two decades arguably emphasised over the usual economic and social aspects of development, it can no longer be denied by different global sectors moving into the future. One such sector involved would be the global maritime industry. Accounted as the producer of 3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions4, it is important to inquire and assess if this industry can still sail not only for the world’s production material and human resources, but for everyone’s future as well. In this opportune time, the industry does have a plan true to the essence of sustainability, not only for the environment but for all its stakeholders.

The plan is nothing short of ambitious, considering international actors’ past initiatives of having critically contested outputs and outcomes with mixed analysis coming from think tanks. It is spearheaded by the Maritime Just Transition Task Force formed during the Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 in 2021 through the initiative of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), as well as the United Nations Global Compact5. Aiming for “just and human-centered decarbonization of the shipping industry”, the plan aims to decarbonise ship transportation for alternative fuel in part through the knowledge and skills of seafarers across the world, assuring sustainable inclusion, safety, and training. The economic pillar shall be considered in terms of investments and funds for the plans and initiatives of the task force as well as in quality labour systems for the mariners. Moreover, the mentioned international actors shall include the education sector and industries, as well as domestic actors such as state governments in the implementation of plans ensuring its success by the year 2050.

With climate change as an environmental issue being at the forefront of general issues in the past two decades arguably emphasised over the usual economic and social aspects of development, it can no longer be denied by different global sectors moving into the future.

The concept of just transition provides a degree of pragmatism in the plan, rendering a high probability of being achievable. However, despite giving ample time and consideration to every stakeholder, the facts on the ground relay the reality of misalignment of interests particularly between international and domestic actors which can be a challenge to the success of the task force’s functions. For now, as it is a novel endeavour, every enthusiast in this subject can only render possibilities and scenarios that could play out with respect to internal and external factors. This consideration of variables reflects the ironic beauty of SD. It provides a holistic pathway but with respect to reality as it considers almost all known specific aspects of progress. It asks the policymakers of today to learn from the past and work now for all possible times. But the times ahead can be tumultuous politically, socio-culturally, economically, and environmentally. Full assurance is not the name of the game as anything can happen.

Inspecting Shipment

Despite uncertainties, I declare without hesitancy that we must believe that this sustainable plan is the only pathway for the global shipping industry’s relevance. This stand relies on two foundational rationales; (1) the benefits of the outcome will always outweigh the cost of implementation, and (2) if we shall abolish the task force and its plans that adhere to SD, we have no other option but to create a new task force of the same cut. For the first one, we must be open to the reality of compromises and altering of objectives due to human and natural causes. But such possibilities can be alleviated with the process of quality negotiations amongst maritime industry’s stakeholders and scrutinising Futures Studies. We must be always on guard for possible effective strategies of diplomacy and on directly implicating positive and negative trends from world politics, environment, economics, and even socio-cultural phenomenon. Lastly, we have no other development options nor a “Planet B” where we can start all over again. Science directly states that our environment is suffering from worsening conditions of the seas6,7 and that the fuel that ships utilise should be altered in order to contribute to its healing. With this, seafarers included in the industry must know how to properly deal with the environment through the enhancement of their working conditions and skills. Meanwhile, a significant number of investments from companies in the industry should be devoted to the sustainable plan of the task force. It is through the combination of these actions that we can move forward with the plan.

Science directly states that our environment is suffering from worsening conditions of the seas and that the fuel that ships utilise should be altered in order to contribute to its healing.

In the end, with the prevalence of SD in the Maritime Just Transition Task Force, the global maritime industry is not alone with its problems and solutions. It should realise by now that the world, especially the seas and oceans it utilises are as one in our negative effects, and therefore should be also as one in rendering positive innovations. The ships of the seafarers must not only sail the cargos of today and tomorrow but must include on board sustainable work and inclusion for all of them, the knowledge of the academe and maritime experts, the monetary and policy contributions of different state and non-state actors, as well as environmental sensitivity and know-how. Through this, the maritime industry can still fulfil its noble and historical function of connecting the world, but now with everything and everyone, sailing into the future together.

This article was originally published on 6 June 2023

About the Author

BenitoMr. John Louis B. Benito, LPT – John Benito earned his Bachelor in Social Science Education (BSSE) with Certificate in Teaching Senior Secondary High School from Philippine Normal University, Manila. He is currently taking his Master of Arts Degree in International Studies, Major in European Studies from the De La Salle University, Manila while simultaneously working on research papers related to Sustainable Development, International Migration, and International Studies in general.

References

  1. Brundtland Commission. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. In UN Sustainable Development (p. 41). Brundtland Commission (The World Commission on Environment and Development). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/5987our-common-future.pdf
  2. Purvis, Mao, Y., & Robinson, D. (2019). Three Pillars of Sustainability: In Search of Conceptual Origins. Sustainability Science, 14(3), 681–695. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-018-0627-5
  3. Mondini. (2019). Sustainability Assessment: from Brundtland Report to Sustainable Development Goals. Valori e Valutazioni, 23.
  4. Selwyn, M. (n.d.). About the Just Transition Maritime Task Force. United Nations Global Compact; UN Global Compact Office. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from https://unglobalcompact.org/take-action/think-labs/just-transition/about
  5. Maritime Just Transition Task Force. (2022). Mapping a Maritime Just Transition for Seafarers. Maritime Just Transition Task Force. https://www.ics-shipping.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Position-Paper-Mapping-a-Maritime-Just-Transition-for-Seafarers-%E2%80%93-Maritime-Just-Transition-Task-Force-2022-OFFICIAL.pdf
  6. Séférian, Iudicone, D., Bopp, L., Roy, T., & Madec, G. (2012). Water Mass Analysis of Effect of Climate Change on Air-Sea CO2 Fluxes: The Southern Ocean. Journal of Climate, 25(11), 3894–. https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00291.
  7. Appiotti, Krzelj, M., Russo, A., Ferretti, M., Bastianini, M., & Marincioni, F. (2014). A Multidisciplinary Study on the Effects of Climate Change in the Northern Adriatic Sea and the Marche Region (Central Italy). Regional Environmental Change, 14(5), 2007–. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0451-5
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.