The Ship of Things To Come: Next up: Sustainable transport policies

The Ship of Things To Come: Next up: Sustainable transport policies

Posted On : 13 Sep 2018


Next up: Sustainable transport policies


What is the future of roro shipping? — Meeting the demands of globalization must be in conjunction with a focus on sustainability, on environmental issues that affect the supply and demand.

The current development of civilization has led to an imbalance between the economic development and natural resources, which entails a serious risk of economic, environmental, social, and political instability.

In a report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 entitled "Our Common Future," sustainable development was defined as:

"...Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The main priority of sustainable development is a compromise between economic and social development and protection of natural resources.

Of sustainable development, sustainable transport is one of the main strategic objectives. Sustainable transport is defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as something which "does not endanger public health or ecosystems and meets the needs of the movement in accordance with the principles of the use of renewable resources below their regeneration capacity and use of non-renewable resources below the possibilities of developing their renewable substitutes.


Sustainable transport pertains to accessible, safe, and environment-friendly modes. It is affordable and operates efficiently while offering a suitable choice of means of transport supporting the economy. Most importantly, sustainable transport commits to reducing emissions and waste production, the consumption of non-renewable energy resources.

Carriers have to follow new regulations and adjust their ships accordingly in order for a truly sustainable freight system.

According to the OECD, a sustainable intermodal freight system involves all primary modes of freight transportation from road, rail, water, air, and pipeline, working in harmony in a process that “enhances goods movement around the globe in a way that is environmentally responsible, equitable, and efficient.”

This solution requires that the shipping industry, the government, and academic sector coordinate their efforts in ensuring policies are in place, with the right implementation and monitoring. The general public also must have a deeper understanding of how consumer products from their food, materials for housing, clothes, and other goods are delivered for a sustainable intermodal freight transportation system to be successful.

In addition, the OECD adds that the maritime transport industry “must continue to involve technologies (including environmental control technologies for air emissions, ballast water, hull coatings, etc.), energy systems (including alternative fuels, increased power plant efficiencies, improved hull and propeller designs, and even novel concepts like wind-assist kites), and operational changes (such as speed reduction, mode rebalancing, and changing route patterns)” to reinforce the success of sustainability efforts.

In line with this, it is imperative that policy should be directed towards the development of modes of transport that ultimately address the transport needs and contribute to the reduction of harmful impact on the environment and the preservation of natural resources. Transfer of cargo from road transport to other transport modes with less negative impact on the natural environment, especially to rail transport and inland shipping, is the basic task.

“The majority of the other shipping connections serviced by ferries and Ro-Ro vessels contribute to shortening of shipment route in relation to the alternative road transport and, hence, to reduction of total external costs generated in transport, which is the main aim of sustainable development,” the OECD reiterates. When and how these will take hold will surely be a tedious endeavor but essentially beneficial to a more globalized environment.

Like the slow and steady pace of a ship crossing the sea, one thing is for sure— things are looking up. With a keen consciousness of the benefits and what is needed to ensure those benefits are realized—policymaking, technological overhauls, sensitivity towards environmental impact—it only takes choosing the right partners in Shipping for manufacturers and producers to participate in the improvement of the entire freight system altogether, while carrying out their endeavors, business as usual. The history of the maritime shipping industry is one of patience. It has come a long way and is not going anywhere, but onwards. The ship usually reaches its destination as the horizon takes shape in the distance, slowly but surely.