If the global shipping industry were a country, it would be the world’s sixth-highest CO2 emitter, ahead of Germany. As an international industry, shipping was not covered by the 2015 Paris climate change agreement that focused on individual nations’ responsibility for critical emissions. But as unprecedented heatwaves, forest fires and flooding raise global awareness of climate change, the shipping industry is starting to make up for lost time.
How significant is their response? And was Maersk’s recent announcement of investing over US$1.4bn in eight post-Panamax containerships that can run on methanol or bunker fuel just a drop in the proverbial ocean? Let’s take a closer look at how shipping is responding to the climate crisis.
Have you recently tried to buy a computer, Peloton exercise bike or new furniture? If so, you may well have experienced an unexpectedly delayed delivery. You’d be in the same boat as millions of other consumers and corporate buyers in the western world. Though your order may have been stuck in one of the many thousands of containers on the Ever Given, the ship held up in the Suez Canal for months, the most likely reason for delayed deliveries is the global shortage of containers. The metal boxes that make global trade possible are in very short supply – with a domino effect on supply chains worldwide. And it all began with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unparalleled impact on global mobility – on land, at sea and in the air. The severe restrictions on human movements, changes in consumption and the economic impact of lockdowns and reduced demand due to increased unemployment or short-time working hit the global economy hard, though with greatly differing impacts on national economies. So how has the pandemic affected maritime logistics?
There’s no doubting the magnitude of the problem. And the urgent need to tackle it. Maritime shipping accounts for nearly 3% of the world’s annual CO2 emissions, says the IMO. In 2018, IMO delegates agreed to cut emissions by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. But with less than three decades to go, the target seems more unattainable than ever. Developing viable alternatives to diesel fuel is a more time-critical challenge than ever before. Can green ammonia solve shipping’s carbon crisis?
As speed to market is currently critical in tackling the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines are only shipped by air at the moment. In the future, delivery by sea may become a viable alternative. We show the potential that shipping the vaccine by sea holds.
“Ninety percent of everything” was how Rose George titled her 2013 book on the shipping industry. That is how important the world’s merchant fleet is to global trade. Yet when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, politicians the world over were seemingly unaware of the significance of cargo-ship crews’ work. Unlike cross-border lorry drivers, airline pilots, and cabin crew, seafarers were not designated as key workers – with tragic consequences for the sailors and their families in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
Stranded at sea
The travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world have made crew changes and repatriation of seafarers massively difficult. The result has been a humanitarian crisis of unheard-of proportions – and one made worse by a widespread lack of interest in the seafarers’ plight. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) estimates that around 400,000 seafarers were stranded on their ships in December 2020 – unable to make their way home and many months past the end of their original contracts. A similar number of seafarers were stuck at home, prevented from joining their ships and earning much-needed money to support their families in countries without welfare networks.
Boris Johnson’s winning election slogan, “Get Brexit done”, is now reality. But is Brexit really done? And how will it impact ports and supply chains?
Spot the famous White Cliffs of Dover in the distance? This was a sight at least 10,000 lorry drivers waited many days to see around Christmas 2020. They were stuck in massive queues on the motorway to Dover or forced to park at Manston Airport far from the port. Some ended up spending Christmas in their lorries before they could cross the Channel. What went wrong? Britain’s Health Minister, Matt Hancock, had issued a panicky statement on the new corona virus mutation (“We’ve lost control!”) and many countries closed their borders to road, rail and air travellers from Britain. France shut the Port of Calais and the Eurotunnel. Was the resultant chaos a foretaste of Brexit’s impact on ports and European supply chains?
The huge barge chugs its way southwards towards the Gulf of Mexico. A passer-by on the banks of the Mississippi can hardly hear the boat’s engine: the other shoreline is scarcely visible, so wide is America’s second-longest river at 3,730 km. Its length is just one of the Mississippi’s many superlatives. As an inland waterway transport system (IWTS), its economic significance cannot be overstated.
Happy 10th Anniversary, many would say. But this particular anniversary, which recalls the start of a visionary project, is somewhat different. In January 2010, a treaty was signed between the Kingdom of Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany for the construction of a fixed link under the Fehmarnbelt, the 18 km Baltic strait running between the Danish island of Lolland and the German island of Fehmarn. Yet not everybody in Denmark or Germany feels like celebrating.