15 September 2023 – The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) held a roundtable during London International Shipping Week, hosted by Lloyd’s Register, on the need for a just and equitable transition to be considered in the context of green shipping corridors.

The roundtable, held under Chatham House rule, is one in a series of stakeholder consultations taking place this year in the context of research being carried out jointly by SSI, the Mærsk McKinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, and the UN Global Compact Ocean Stewardship Coalition.

The event brought together maritime stakeholders from the corporate and NGO spaces engaged in green corridor discussions, with the aim of gathering insights into the existing challenges and opportunities for developing green corridors in a just and equitable manner.

If green corridors can act as pilots for zero emission fuels and technologies, can we also use them as pilots for a just and equitable shipping sector?

Setting the scene

A just transition is defined as “greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.” A just transition involves “maximising the social and economic opportunities of climate action, while minimising and carefully managing any challenges – including through effective social dialogue among all groups impacted.” (International Labour Organization). Read more about the need for a just and equitable transition in shipping.

A green shipping corridor is defined as a “shipping route on which the uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission technologies, fuels and/or energy sources are deployed, and emissions reductions are measured and enabled through public and private actions and policies.” (Mærsk McKinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping). Read more about green shipping corridors here.

Three main areas are discussed in this research in the context of green corridors and just transition: workers (including seafarers, port workers and workers across the fuel value chain), communities (across the green corridor activities), and the national level (linking to access to green corridors as well as risks and opportunities for governments).

Industry’s role in the just transition

The updated IMO GHG strategy, adopted in July this year, makes explicit reference to the need for shipping’s transition to be just and equitable. Whilst much of the responsibility for ensuring this falls on governments, the private sector plays a large role in making this possible – from demanding a just transition from governments to ensuring these considerations are built into their own projects and activities.

This is a global challenge – the maritime sector is complex and to decarbonise, there are a variety of fuels and technologies that need to be explored. The green transition cannot be tackled in a silo. Ensuring no country is left behind is a core part of enabling a just transition that benefits all – and in particular, countries that are disproportionately affected by the impacts of the changing climate – as well as building a resilient maritime sector.

One area where shipping’ role is clear-cut is its own workforce and the need for adequate seafarer training in preparation for new fuels. Challenges were outlined around the safety concerns surrounding the handling of alternative fuels, such as ammonia, and the need for common and universally available guidelines to facilitate the development of training programmes.

Training programmes would need to take place at multiple levels: from the vessel for the seafarers onboard, to the port and local community for those working onshore with e.g., fuel transport, storage, and bunkering. This would create opportunities for local capacity building, as well as early inputs on community needs which are necessary for a future where alternative fuels production, transport, storage and bunkering takes place on a more local scale. The potential of the energy transition to create a more diverse workforce considering gender, youth, and other factors was also highlighted in connection to this.

The cost driver of green corridors

The high cost of entry for green corridors was highlighted as a key barrier to ensuring a just and equitable transition. On this, it was noted that a ‘green’ corridor does not only run on alternative fuels, but also incorporates a range of efficiency measures, many of which are already available today, which can lower entry barriers.

However, with high costs and high risk, green corridors may be heavily reliant on financial incentives from governments, which in turn may limit their establishment to countries with such incentives in place. The potential for intervention from development banks was also discussed, noting that this could be an area to increase awareness on.

This raises a key issue with the way green corridor routes are established, often based on financial convenience or political will rather than potential impact. It is therefore necessary to consider how to best identify green corridor ports and routes, taking into consideration workers, local communities, and equity. The need for community consultation and considering community impact at the pre-feasibility phase of a green corridor was highlighted.

How do we use just and equitable principles to inform where a green corridor is developed?

Opportunities for impact in green corridors

Large green corridor consortia can make it difficult to make decisions as they require consensus-building between multiple actors, and more research is needed on governance models for green corridors to understand levers for impact. It was noted that corridors may also have a range of focus areas depending on national and local priorities, with countries like Chile and South Africa driving just transition thinking within their green corridor engagement.

The pre-feasibility phase in a green corridor development was identified as the one with the biggest potential for impact, noting that data-driven decision-making can help identify countries with high potential for future fuel production as well as risks, including just transition risks.

Finally, the need for a just and equitable transition is a rapidly emerging topic within the maritime sector. There are growing opportunities for partnering and impact leading up to and beyond COP28, which will take place this December in Dubai, UAE, and where the final report will be released.