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Shipping industry


Carbon-zero shipping is on the horizon, here’s how we chart a course

IbyIMD+ Published 15 September 2021 in Magazine • 9 min read • Audio availableAudio available

Shipping accounts for 3% of global CO2 emissions, and the volume of business is expected to grow by more than 50% over the next 30 years. It’s a huge task, but here’s how carbon-neutral sea transportation can be achieved.  


A 180,000 deadweight-ton Capesize dry bulk vessel embarks on the 30-day journey from Shanghai to Port of Tubarão in Brazil with its hulls empty. It then lies idle for three weeks before returning to China laden with iron ore. The emissions from the round trip could total almost 5,000 tons of CO2. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Shipping is the lifeblood of the global economy and an essential part of all major supply chains. Everything from your mobile phone, your furniture, and the food in your fridge will most likely have been produced elsewhere in the world; and, on average, 90% of it will have been transported by sea. This requires a huge amount of energy, and the 300 million tons of fossil fuels consumed by the global fleet every year results in shipping accounting for 3% of global CO2 emissions. There is wide agreement that this needs to be taken to zero by 2050 for shipping to decarbonize in line with the Paris Agreement, but decarbonizing shipping is an enormous task.  

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