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Decarbonisation can change shipping’s future for the better

Decarbonisation can change shipping’s future for the better

(Posted on 27/08/21)

Decarbonisation is a massive opportunity for shipping to reclaim its proper value and regain a positive world status, according to maritime lawyer Rachel Hoyland, a senior associate with Hill Dickinson with a specialist interest in environmental matters.

Delivering the latest in the popular London Talks series of video reports, Ms Hoyland considers: “Shipping has ceased to be celebrated for carrying the exotic, rare and luxurious. While becoming an essential prop to everyday life, it has faded into an unapplauded, industrialised backdrop – an industry of ever squeezed margins and plummeting rates. But could decarbonisation offer lift to this narrative?”

Addressing one of London International Shipping Week’s core themes, ESG (environmental, social, governance), she states that, in an era where ESG is the acronym we’re hearing all around, “a successful industry is a sustainable, socially and environmentally conscious industry. It may also be a profitable industry, but profit at any cost, especially environmental and humanitarian, will not be acceptable.”

Envisaging the changes which may occur as shipping evolves to reduce its carbon footprint and meet changing demands, Ms Hoyland predicts smaller ships running on shorter, regular routes.

And the cargoes of tomorrow will evolve too she hypothesises, anticipating that customer demand for cleaner, greener and more environmentally sustainable goods will drive a switch to more locally produced alternative fuel sources, manufactured products, and foods.

“If manufacturing and production across multiple industries are brought closer to sites of supply, we can anticipate that there may be a slackening of demand on the east to west trade lanes. Coincidentally, these are the trade lanes on which some of the largest ships in the world run,” she points out.

She explains that companies are increasingly seeking, as part of their own decarbonisation, to reduce indirect emissions produced throughout their entire value chain and looking for greener alternatives.

How then can shipping benefit from this environmental revolution? According to Ms Hoyland: “Firstly we need to redefine our notion of growth and recovery, which requires that we recognise, in this disrupted world, that the growth of the future will not be of the same nature as the growth of the past, and that bigger ships and bigger fleets will not be the markers of success in the future.”

“An additional benefit resulting from the changes which decarbonisation may drive, is that a downsized and more diverse industry may also be a more resilient industry, less exposed to the damage of huge casualties and better able to weather the unpredictable events of the future.”

She states: “As the industry starts to emerge from an era of being unrecognised, it is potentially on track to reach a new high. If decarbonisation drives a relative downsizing of the industry, if cargo trends alter such that the everyday comes from a source more close at hand, and shipping once again delivers the exotic, the highly prized cargoes, and does so in a greener way, the value of that limited transportation capacity will surely increase.”

Concluding her talk, one in a series building up to London International Shipping Week (LISW21) in just four weeks’ time, Ms Hoyland declares: “A marvellous thing about the future, is that it hasn’t happened yet, and that we get to play a role in shaping it. Decarbonising the shipping industry is a precious chance, not only to negate harmful practices in order to avert disaster – which is in itself a vital and sufficiently worthy cause ¬– but perhaps, more encouragingly, a chance to create a future which is in all ways genuinely better than now.

“Better for the planet, better for its citizens and better for the shipping industry too.”

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