In recent years, the ever-contentious climate change debate has increased attention to the environmental effects of international trade and transportation, with a particular focus on the maritime industry. These days most goods are made in one area of the world, sent to another and then sent to the country where they will be consumed. As seagoing vessels carry more than 80% of all commerce worldwide, it goes without saying that the maritime sector will continue to be an essential component of global supply chains, with rail and road being mostly employed for freight as well as travel to and from ports.
However, as the green revolution spreads there is increasing pressure on the maritime sector to ditch traditional processes that prioritise growth in favour of a more environmentally friendly approach. Our reliance on the maritime sector begs the question – is there a way to implement sustainable practices, methods and processes in the industry that will ultimately reduce its environmental footprint? The solution lies in green logistics.
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What is green logistics?
In simple terms, green logistics encompasses any business practice, methodology or practice targeted at environmentally sustainable operations. Also known as eco-logistics, it’s a set of sustainable politics, processes and measures aimed at reducing the environmental impact of a specific sector.
Perhaps most pertinent, the goal of green logistics is to find a balance between profits and the environment – this is in contrast to traditional logistics, where the environmental impacts of operations are often sidelined in favour of the most profitable processes and methods.
What challenges is the maritime industry facing?
The maritime sector contributes around 3% of excess greenhouse gases per year. Although not a major contributor to carbon emissions worldwide, the green revolution has placed increased pressure on the maritime sector. This is especially pertinent considering our reliance on the maritime industry to support the global economy.
At present, logistics within the maritime industry aren’t widely recognised as having a high degree of environmental sustainability. Challenges include:
- Dependency on fossil fuels – Incentives that are efficient and financially viable have not yet been fully devised that will ultimately wean the sector off fuel fossil dependency
- Inadequate infrastructure – Many vessels have a lifespan of about 20 to 25 years. Many businesses working within the maritime sector recognise the need for emission regulation and as a result, there has been an increase in green retrofitting, refits and conversions. However, a wider agreement is needed to improve existing facilities and processes on land as well as create new systems that meet requirements and are sustainable.
- Costs & profits – Due to tight financial constraints, investing in process automation, infrastructure or more effective handling equipment is often pushed further down the priority list which is delaying the implementation of more sustainable processes and practices.
Green logistics and the maritime industry
When in practice, green logistics look different depending on the business and industry the practices are implemented. In the maritime sector, green logistics covers everything and anything from the elimination of single-use water bottles and other maritime water solutions to the creation of green corridors. The aim of green logistics in the maritime industry includes:
- The measuring of the sector’s carbon footprint for the purpose of implementing more sustainable practices as per the goals of all interested parties as well as local regulations
- Reducing air, soil, water and noise pollution by analysing the impact of each area of logistics within day-to-day operations
- Considering the use of supplies including the implementation of recycling where possible as well as the elimination of single-use plastic
- Implementing sustainable practices down supply chains
How can the maritime industry implement green logistics?
Some examples of how the maritime industry can implement green logistics in day-to-day operations include:
- Implementing sustainable criteria in procurement policies – When evaluating suppliers’ proposals, sustainability standards can be incorporated into a company’s procurement policy. This aids in assessing the viability of buying environmentally friendly goods.
- Minimise the environmental impact of vessels – In the maritime logistics chain, the transportation of cargo as well as the general day-to-day operations of a vessel plays a significant role in increasing the sector’s carbon footprint. Utilising technology that aids in delivery route planning and gives priority to load pooling is equally important to reducing emissions from existing vessels as it is to purchasing cleaner-running ships or upgrading old ones. Systems like real-time monitoring can help you manage your fleet more effectively while also reducing the overall emissions that the transportation sector produces.
- Reduce and recycle – Green logistics can also be as simple as eliminating single-use plastic where possible and implementing a more sustainable approach to waste reduction and disposal such as recycling.
The climate change debate has drawn more attention in recent years, leading to a spotlight on the environmental impacts of global trade and transportation and an emphasis on the maritime sector. Nowadays, the majority of products are produced in one region of the world, transported to another and then delivered to the nation where they will be consumed. It goes without saying that the maritime industry will continue to be a crucial part of global supply chains in the future green revolution or not – especially considering maritime vessels carry more than 80% of all global trade, with rail and road being primarily used for freight as well as travel to and from ports.
As the green revolution gains momentum, there is growing pressure on the marine industry to abandon established processes, methods and practices that put expansion above all else. The global economy’s dependence on the marine industry prompts the question – is it possible to introduce sustainable practices, methods and procedures in the sector that will ultimately lessen its environmental impact? It seems green logistics may be the answer.
From doing away with single-use water bottles to creating green corridors, green logistics can cover everything and anything. For the maritime industry, it may be the solution to tackling the climate change challenge and cementing a more sustainable future for the sector.