Andrew Stephens (Sustainable Shipping Initiative), Jan Webber (Mission to Seafarers), and Esben Poulsson (Sailors' Society)
Andrew Stephens (Sustainable Shipping Initiative), Jan Webber (Mission to Seafarers), and Esben Poulsson (Sailors' Society)

04 May 2023 – I attended various events at Singapore Maritime Week in May 2023, under the theme ‘where ambition meets action.’ A third of the way through this decade of action, this focus is necessary and it was inspiring to be surrounded by the buzz of an industry undergoing a massive transformation.

Where ambition meets action

First movers are paving the way for shipping’s decarbonisation, which will inevitably transform the way our industry operates. From sessions on green corridors, highlighting lessons learnt from the pilot tests and key opportunities available, to leaders like MPA Singapore showcasing greater visible leadership on sustainability, it’s clear that the industry is rolling up its sleeves. And whilst we must congratulate and shine a light on the initiators, we must not forget the importance of supporting the entire sector in this transition. Different speeds of adoption and change are to be expected, but we must all act fast to ensure a smooth transition. We cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good, and learning as we go is not only okay but expected.

Transparency and collaboration

Data visibility and transparency were a core part of many discussions. From operational efficiency measures to voyage planning to reduce congestion, emissions, and pollution, data sharing is essential for progress as well as for mitigating supply chain risks. As an industry, we need to overcome the fear of data sharing and transparency impacting commercial advantages if we are to successfully build a more sustainable maritime sector.

Individual companies and collaborative initiatives are generating data and information at a rapid pace – from fuel testing to new technologies to green corridor development. Their outcomes, learnings, and next steps are valuable to advance industry-wide sustainability progress, work towards a common goal, and unlock the investments necessary for shipping’s decarbonisation.

Stakeholder inclusion

We need to better understand the intersection between shipping, port infrastructure, and people to ensure unified progress on all fronts. In this regard, the inclusion of people, from our seafarers to shore-based workers and local communities, could have been incorporated more in many of the discussions. As those directly impacted by operational choices, including our workers (present and future) and local communities in decision-making processes is vital for business – and the right thing to do. Doing so is the only way to build an equitable industry that benefits all stakeholders within and connected with shipping.

Having a multi-stakeholder approach to decision-making will enable a successful and resilient transformation to a just, decarbonised future for shipping. Issues such as diversity at sea, air quality impacts on coastal communities, and seafarer recruitment fees must be addressed to create a resilient, inclusive, sustainable shipping industry.