The purpose of this paper is to assess the status and prospects of the decarbonization of maritime transport. Already more than two years have passed since the landmark decision of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in April 2018, which entailed ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships. The paper attempts to address the following three questions: (a) where do we stand with respect to GHG emissions from ships, (b) how is the Initial IMO Strategy progressing, and (c) what should be done to move ahead? To that effect, our methodology includes commenting on some of the key issues addressed by the recently released 4th IMO GHG study, assessing progress at the IMO since 2018, and finally identifying other issues that we consider relevant and important as regards maritime GHG emissions, such as for instance the role of the European Green Deal and how this may interact with the IMO process. Even though the approach of the paper is to a significant extent qualitative, some key quantitative and modelling aspects are considered as well. On the basis of our analysis, our main conjecture is that there is not yet light at the end of the tunnel with respect to decarbonizing maritime transport.
Maritime transport carries around 80% of the world’s trade. It is key to the economic development of many countries, it is a source of income in many countries, and it is considered as a safe and environment friendly mode of transport. Given its undisputed importance, a question is what does the future hold for maritime transport. This chapter is an attempt to answer this question by mainly addressing the drive to decarbonize shipping, along with related challenges as regards alternative low carbon or zero carbon marine fuels. The important role of maritime policy making as a main driver for change is also discussed. Specifically, if maritime transport is to drastically change so as to meet carbon emissions reduction targets, the chapter argues, among other things, that a substantial bunker levy would be the best (or maybe the only) way to induce technological changes in the long run and logistical measures (such as slow steaming) in the short run. In the
long run this would lead to changes in the global fleet towards vessels and technologies that are more energy efficient, more economically viable and less dependent on fossil fuels than those today. In that sense, it would have the potential to drastically alter the face of maritime transport in the future. However, as things stand, and mainly for political reasons, the chapter also argues that the adoption of such a measure is considered as rather unlikely.
Ports are crucial hubs in the functioning of the global economy, and maritime transport is a major emitter of air pollutants. Ports have considerable potential for promoting environmental upgrading in maritime transport and along global value chains more generally, but so far have been only partially successful in doing so. We examine results, limitations and future potential of voluntary initiatives that have been carried out by selected European and North American port authorities, which are considered frontrunners in environmental management. Drawing from the insights of global value chain analysis and organizational theory, we find that low ‘tool implementation complexity’ and high ‘issue visibility’ concerning emissions are key facilitators of environmental upgrading. We suggest that ports can intervene in two main ways to improve the environmental performance of maritime transport beyond their organizational and physical boundaries: by lowering tool implementation complexity through stronger collaboration within global value chains; and by enhancing emission visibility through alliances with cargo-owners and regulators.