Instead of prioritizing sustainable and energy-efficient shipping, the focus is often on satisfying commercial interests when planning shipping routes. This has been shown by research carried out at the University of Gothenburg, which underlines the importance of collaboration for more sustainable navigation.
Maritime transport accounts for around 90% of global transport and almost 3% of total emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. To reduce the climate impact of shipping, the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed that international shipping should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050, compared to 2008 levels.
To achieve this climate goal, the IMO uses a ship-based regulatory approach to promote safer and more energy-efficient shipping. However, a study conducted by the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg and three other Nordic universities shows the limits of this approach.
“These limitations are slowing climate work and may partly explain why carbon emissions from shipping continue to rise,” says Hanna Varvne, a doctoral student in business administration and one of the study’s authors.
Business interests come first
Before setting off on a voyage, captains and officers make a number of decisions that affect fuel efficiency. By planning a route with favorable weather and sea conditions, optimizing main and auxiliary engines and avoiding departure-related delays, fuel consumption and climate impact can be minimized.
However, the study shows that these choices are often influenced by the instructions of commercial managers, ship operators and shipowners, who favor economic factors over energy efficiency.
“They may want to see high service speeds, frequent ferry services during low season, or a longer route that avoids costly channel charges, all of which increase fuel consumption,” continues Hanna Varvne.
By ignoring those policy makers who prioritize commercial interests over energy efficiency, the regulatory approach could negatively impact the chances of meeting the 2050 climate target, the researchers say.
“A classic example is the speed of the ship. This is often regulated either in commercial contracts or via public procurement. These contracts take limited account of the speed that would result in reduced emissions.
The importance of raising the minimum level
To achieve shipping’s climate goals, the researchers therefore recommend that the IMO focus more on business managers, port actors and other decision-makers who currently prioritize business goals over energy efficiency. Hanna Varvne also believes that more cooperation is needed to achieve the climate goal:
“There are a number of new agreements between shipowners and shipping companies that aim to create more environmentally friendly transport chains. Unfortunately, there are also examples of other arrangements or collaborations that did not come to fruition. Thus, future research on the success factors of collaboration for sustainable shipping could really help to develop more successful projects that benefit both business and the environment.
The study is based on interviews with more than 100 maritime officers and managers, as well as extensive ship-based observations and data collection.
Read the publication: Taudal Poulsen, René et al (2022).Energy Efficiency in Ship Operations – Exploring Voyage Decisions and Decision Makers doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2021.103120
Contact: Hanna Varvne, PhD student in Business Administration at the Gothenburg Research Institute of the School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg Tel. : +46 31-786 68 30, +46 766-18 68 30, email: hanna. [email protected]
Transport Research Part D Transport and Environment
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Energy Efficiency in Ship Operations – Exploring Voyage Decisions and Decision Makers
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