21-22/2016 Maritime shipping sets new course
Maritime shipping is once again being buffeted by heavy turbulence. The weak global economy is creating severe problems for the sector, and measures instituted by large shipping lines to counter poor demand, such as establishing major new alliances (see also page 13) have not been as effective as could be hoped for. There is opposition from outside the industry too.
I’m talking about those seeking to protect the environment. Maritime shipping was once lauded as the mode of transport that did least damage to the environment. 90% of all cargo transported completes at least one leg of its journey by sea. Today, however, there are many factors that, in the opinion of environmentalists, prevent formerly highly-praised green shipping from further improving the situation. There is no dearth of allegations: liquid and solid ships’ wastes and gases are pumped into the sea and the air; ship engines have too high sulphur-dioxide emissions, further polluting the environment.
These problems are now set to be addressed at a political level by the United Nations, which is holding the second session of its Environment Assembly in Nairobi (Kenya) from 23–27 May. The meeting will look into the pollution of the oceans by plastic waste, sustainable production and consumption patterns and the strengthening of international regimes to protect the environment. The state of the planet will be analysed and international strategies established to protect the world and find patterns for the sustainable use of resources.
Politicians tend to take a long time before passing laws that can slow down or end negative developments. Much has already been attained, such as reducing sulphur-dioxide emissions from ship engines, thanks to the use of alternative fuel such as LNG – but every one of us is called upon to make an individual contribution to a cleaner planet.
For us in the ITJ editorial offices this state of affairs is manifested by the many announcements explicitly addressing the issue of protecting the environment. Over and above this specific environmental news almost every other item is directly or indirectly embedded in the fact that the decision was taken with both financial as well as environmental considerations in mind – no matter whether it concerns a new timetable or the greater integration of the motorways of the seas into Europe’s TEN-T network (see pages 14 and 16).
One thing is certain in all this, however – maritime cargo transport has to and will gladly change its course, in order to continue to fulfil its role as the planet’s leading mode of transport in the future.