Setting the course for green shipping

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Governmental bodies are urging the adoption of greener shipping initiatives to reduce GHG emissions from international shipping. In this article, we explore the role of digitization and port authorities play in accelerating and promoting sustainability goals.

During the MEPC 72 in 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) set a goal to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by 50% until the end of 2050 compared to 2008.

A few years later, at MEPC 76 in 2021, the committee agreed to strengthen their efforts by introducing two new measures; the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index and the Carbon Intensity Indicator. These measures will be implemented from 2023 onwards and their aim is to improve and rate ships’ energy efficiency. The new amendments intend to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse emissions from vessels and meet the new IMO target: to reduce ship’s carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2008.

While these new requirements are meant to enforce emissions reduction, the current discussion is whether that goal should be set to net zero emissions. Although this decision was deferred to 2023 by IMO, worldwide countries are joining to push forward more aggressive measures. One example is the package of proposals presented by the European Commission to cut greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030 instead. To achieve its goals, the European Commission defined the FuelEU Maritime initiatives to address the emissions from the shipping industry. These measures are aimed at using less energy and at using cleaner energy types which will contribute to the EU economy-wide GHG emissions reduction targets.

The pathway to greener shipping

There are multiple ways to optimize shipping and make it more sustainable. One worthy approach is by investing in new fuel alternatives. Although technological developments are promising, the political debate about the fuel of choice is dividing the industry and slowing progress down.

Nevertheless, there are more pressing issues that challenge the shipping industry to change. The lack of transparency across the sector and the information ambiguity caused by it is the root cause of many of the inefficiencies that the shipping industry experiences today. These inefficiencies happen due to the lack of operational data exchange between the different parties involved in a port call. Is the last mile of the journey where most of the delays occur, around 80%, yet the time spent at the port is between 15-40% of the journey.

This gives ship operators the opportunity to build in margins, they hurry to arrive at the port as early as possible only to waste unnecessary fuel and resources by adopting this approach.

The lack of transparent and real-time data shared across different stakeholders in the port makes it difficult for shipping companies to adjust their schedules. Only if a trusted, standardized exchange of information could be facilitated, then operators wouldn’t need to build wasteful, expensive, and unnecessary margins.

This begs the question of whether ship owners are ready to commit to a net zero future and what measures they are implementing to achieve sustainability goals. A recent study, developed by Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Centre, assessed decarbonizations initiatives, strategies, and actions of 94 representative players in the industry and their findings show that the industry has still a long way to go to reach net zero within the limited time left to finalize this transition.

  • 35% of the companies have a clear emissions target to be net zero by 2050 and have committed to the IMO targets.
  • 36% of the companies have a sustainability report but many of them confirm the fact they do not hold emissions data from previous years.
  • 31% have a fuel strategy, complying with the recent  IMO requirements
  • 8% of the companies with net zero 2050 ambitions and a standardized disclosure to CDO have invested on average 9mln USD in decarbonization initiatives
  • 4% of the companies use offsets as a strategy to lower emissions


Therefore, continuously improving operational efficiency through digitalization is an inextricable part of the industry’s decarbonization goals.

Hence the reason, implementing digital platforms on a global scale can reduce CO2 emissions by 20% – 40%, offering immediate, scalable, low-cost solutions for decarbonization. 

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How port authorities can lead the sustainability goals in the maritime industry?

Port authorities play a critical role in promoting measures that contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions. Moreover, the speed at which the shipping industry will decarbonize is highly determined by the ability of ports to provide the right infrastructure that supports these efforts.

Ports have available incentive schemes that would support the decarbonization efforts being implemented across the shipping industry. These incentives actively promote the adoption of new technologies that address decarbonization.

At the same time, ports are taking an active role in aligning their incentives with the IMO forthcoming regulations. One example of such initiatives is the approach announced by the European Commission to establish a sustainable “blue economy” in which ports play a pivotal role as hubs for the circular economy, communication, and industry.

“A further aspect that helps achieve decarbonization and zero pollution is the use of smart digital solutions and autonomous systems, as these optimize traffic flows and cargo handling in and around ports…” European Commission

Reducing CO2 emissions by implementing a digital collaboration platform

PortXchange Synchronizer offers a centralized platform for sharing real-time data. It combines data retrieved directly from terminals, port authorities, service providers, agents, AIS data, and forecasts from artificial intelligence applications and presents a common situational awareness around the port call process.

For years, the industry has always been interested in gathering data for various types of analysis. But, on the other hand, it was “never meant to be” shared between parties. People are terrified of their ships being tracked, and some argue that “transparency will destroy the industry.” But why not turn this “new” transparency into a competitive advantage that will benefit all the stakeholders? We continuously exchange information in our daily life. Why can’t the maritime industry start doing the same? Port of Algeciras

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About the author

Adriana Belei
Sr. Digital Marketer
Senior B2B Marketer dedicated to empowering innovative businesses within the logistics sector. With a keen focus on crafting compelling messaging strategies, at PortXchange she specializes in delivering campaigns to effectively communicate the company’s vision, products, and services and drive tangible results.

Adriana Belei

Sr. Digital Marketer

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