Decoding the decarbonization puzzle requires leadership from all sectors. In marine transportation, that means far more than ship owners.
Vancouver and other international ports have a vital leadership role to play in that decoding. They are, after all, the start and endpoint for the 50,000 ships that move approximately 90 per cent of the world’s cargo.
Maritime shipping accounts for around 2.7 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Per tonne, per kilometre, it remains a far more environmentally efficient means of goods transportation than airplanes and trucks.
However, it is still dirty.
Pacific Environment, a U.S.-based environmental organization, estimates that the marine shipping sector annually emits as much carbon dioxide as Germany. So, it has much decarbonization work to do, and the multitrillion-dollar cost of that decarbonization needs to be shared up and down the global supply chain. Ports have a lot to do with shipping’s environmental standards when it comes to such initiatives as shore power electrification. Pacific Environment’s “Ports Playbook for Zero-Emission Shipping'' maps out key areas that ports can focus on to trigger what it sees as an accelerated “chain reaction” in marine shipping decarbonization.
Those areas include establishing green shipping corridors, abandoning fossil fuel projects, electrifying everything and providing shore-side electricity for ships and reliable fuelling infrastructure for zero-emission cargo ships.
Fuel bunkering for net-zero ships is, perhaps, the most challenging undertaking. It requires a massive financial and technological commitment from ports, port authorities, ship owners and fuel suppliers. The challenge here is that none of those groups know which low- or zero-emissions fuel is going to become the sector’s decarbonization standard. But there likely will be no single solution, and maritime shipping cannot afford to wait any longer for one to emerge.
The best that it and the rest of the world can hope for in pursuing the solutions that will deliver the best overall result is transparent collaboration and co-operation.