World Oceans Day: what is the shipping industry doing to clean the seas?

Ilaria Grasso Macola 8 June 2020 (Last Updated June 8th, 2020 17:10)

On World Oceans Day, it becomes evident that the shipping industry plays a pivotal role in the safeguard of our seas and oceans but what is the sector actually doing? Here are five initiatives from the shipping industry to help protect and clean up the seas.

World Oceans Day: what is the shipping industry doing to clean the seas?
World Oceans Day was established in 1992. Credit: Sebastian Voortman.

Since 1992, every 8 June we celebrate the World Oceans Day to honour our seas and foster a global consciousness regarding the threats human activities pose to them.

“The purpose of the Day is to educate and inform about how vital the oceans are to us all, about the impact of human actions on the ocean, to help foster a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and to mobilize and unite the world’s population to support sustainable management of the world’s oceans,” said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim today.

Given the direct impact of the shipping sector on marine ecosystems, the industry has and will continue to have a fundamental role in the sustainable management of oceans.

To celebrate such an important date, we have a look at five initiatives to protect and clean up the oceans from the shipping industry.

 

IMO – The Global Industry Alliance for Marine Biosafety

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) launched today the Global Industry Alliance (GIA) for Maritime Biosafety, a project that brings together maritime shipping and other ocean-based industries.

The alliance’s aim is for these sectors, through the improvement in biofouling management, to protect marine biodiversity and minimise the CO2 emissions derived from the shipping sector.

Invasive aquatic species (IAS) can cause damage not only to oceans’ ecosystems but also to infrastructures and local economies. By maintaining the immersed structures clear from biofouling, the industry could minimise further spread of IAS.

The GIA is not the first initiative set up by the IMO to address environmental issues.

In 2000, the organisation – alongside the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – set up the GloBallast programme, a cooperation between the private and public sector for the safer management of ballast water.

 

Maersk – The Ocean Cleanup

Since 2018, Danish shipping company Maersk has, working alongside Dutch non-profit organisation the Ocean Cleanup, helped develop systems to rid the oceans of plastic.

In September 2018, the Ocean Cleanup, which develops ocean clean-up systems, started its two-week trial in the San Francisco Bay, 240 nautical miles offshore. The project moved to 1,200 miles offshore towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic.

Maersk has provided the Maersk Launcher vessel, which will tow the clean-up system.

“As a responsible maritime operator, we are committed to ensuring that the oceans remain a healthy environment for generations to come. We are therefore very pleased to contribute with services and equipment to The Ocean Cleanup,” said the company’s vice-CEO Cl Claus  V. Hemmingsen.

To celebrate this year’s World Ocean Day, Maersk has kickstarted a new campaign called Be an Ocean Ambassador, which targets employees who are already taking action on a local level to protect the oceans. Externally, said senior corporate brand manager Anja Andersen, the company will reiterate its commitment towards a carbon-neutral fleet by 2050.

 

Hapag-Lloyd – Ship Recycling Transparency Initiative (SRTI)

Hapag-Lloyd has been involved in numerous initiatives to foster sustainability initiatives, including founding in 2018 the Ship Recycling Transparency Initiative (SRTI), in which industry members commit to recycling ships in a sustainable way.

The German shipping company is, in fact, part of SRTI’s Steering Committee and in 2019 succeeded in convincing other companies to join.

Hapag-Lloyd has also been working with water-protection management systems – which aim to prevent the spread of invasive species through the responsible handling of ballast water – while promoting a no garbage in the sea policy.

The company is also using digital route monitoring to protect marine mammals, with vessels using individual speed profiles while crossing animal sanctuaries.

For the last three years, Hapag-Lloyd has participated in the California-based Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies programme, which aims to protect endangered blue whales.

In 2019, the company travelled 84% of the total distance at 10 knots or less, securing the Sapphire award, a price awarded to companies that 75%-100% of their total fleet distance.

Hapag-Lloyd has also signed the Arctic Shipping Corporate Pledge, committing to avoiding sailing around the Arctic Ocean.

Maritime UK – Maritime UK Awards 2020

The UK’s umbrella body for the maritime sector Maritime UK has announced that the second annual awards, Maritime UK Awards 2020, will take place in the autumn.

Organised for the first time las September, this the Maritime UK Awards will open to companies from across the industry including shipping port and engineering.

Building on last year’s awards, the UK Government will support three award categories, including Clear Maritime Innovator, Clear Maritime Enabler and Clear Maritime Operator.

“I’m really pleased that the government’s Clean Maritime Awards are going to be added to this year’s Maritime UK Awards. Last year the Department for Transport launched our Clean Maritime Plan as part of Maritime 2050 and these new categories will shine a spotlight on the exciting projects that are leading our decarbonisation journey,” said Maritime UK chair Harry Theochari.

 

MSC – 30% biofuel blend

In December 2019, MSC announced it will become the first major shipping line to use 30% biofuel blend on its ships calling in Rotterdam.

“We are pleased to see these trials completed successfully and look forward to now using biofuel on our vessels as a routine matter. When using such blended fuel, we can expect an estimated 15-20% reduction in absolute CO2 emissions,” said MSC Group maritime policy and government affair executive vice-president Bud Darr.

“The potential CO2 reduction in the bio component of these fuels could reach 80-90%, which we will monitor and confirm over time.”

 According to MSC, biofuels could actively help the company meet the standards on CO2 emissions set by the IMO, which impose a 40% reduction by 2030 and 70% by 2050.

In 2019, the company also joined the North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA), which aims to preserve the marine environment by promoting sustainability in the maritime industry. MSC has focused on promoting the sustainable use of sea and marine resources as well as cleaner seas.