20 June 2023 – The Sustainable Shipping Initiative was invited to give one of the opening presentations for the conference. Below is the speech given by Andrew Stephens.

“Good afternoon, your excellencies, distinguished guests, students, and the wider WMU family. Congratulations to the WMU on your 40th anniversary. Thank you for inviting the Sustainable Shipping Initiative to speak today.

We are halfway through 2023, and extensive wildfires plague Canada, Australia, and Spain. Severe heatwaves have caused record April temperatures across much of Asia. The Horn of Africa is experiencing its most severe drought in history, and sporadic rains have caused devastating flooding.

These events have unfortunately misplaced hundreds of thousands of people, ruined countless livelihoods and ecosystems, and ended many lives. This is the result of climate change. We are seeing triple planetary crises develop before our very eyes: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. These crises are interlinked and worsened by our current global system. Change needs to happen, and shipping must be a part of this change.

Shipping will continue to exist in a zero-emission future. It will remain a crucial industry in keeping global supply chains moving. It must adapt now to ensure a smooth transition into the future.

For most of the industry, energy and emissions have been the focus. But as the impacts of the triple planetary crisis become abundantly clear, a systemic approach to sustainability is necessary.

Sustainability spans environmental, social, and governance issues. At the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, we have translated this into a Roadmap to a sustainable shipping industry across six vision areas: Oceans, Communities, People, Transparency, Finance, and Energy. The Roadmap, after which the programme of this conference has been modelled, is a resource for stakeholders across the maritime value chain to navigate pressing sustainability challenges that the industry faces today, with interconnected milestones and pathways pertaining to each vision area. Initially created in 2016 and updated in 2020, the Roadmap is now commencing its third round of updates to reflect the everchanging maritime landscape. The next iteration of the roadmap will track the State of Sustainable Shipping.

All of these iterations have been vital because the industry is changing and adapting. Progress is happening across all vision areas.


The ocean is the foundation of life. Shipping must contribute to responsible oceans and the healthy use of marine resources. In 2022, amendments to the London protocol removed sewage sludge from the list of permissible wastes that can be dumped at sea, leading to cleaner oceans. At the end of that year, The United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) resulted in the adoption of the Kunmig-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework which aims to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, and puts 30% of the planet under protection by 2030. And this March, countries agreed to the historic High Seas Treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.


Already, a majority of ports are exposed to natural hazards such as cyclones, earthquakes, and flooding. This is putting $63.1 billion of trade at risk globally, particularly in Small Island Developing States. Supporting and protecting ports, coastal, and indigenous communities are crucial to achieving a successful, sustainable industry. In 2022 piracy was at an all-time low, and this trend has continued into 2023. And port initiatives, such as the Port of Vancouvers’ EcoAction program use discounted harbour dues to incentivise the reduction of environmental impacts.


The world’s 1.9 million seafarers deserve a healthy, safe, and secure work environment so that they can enjoy rewarding careers and achieve their full potential. Over the last two years, there has been an increased focus on protecting seafarers’ rights, from the Norwegian government pledging to ensure that Norwegian wages and working conditions apply in national waters, to the UK Seafarers Wages act which protects workers on vessels in British waters from being paid less than the British national minimum wage. And in the Philippines, the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers’ sets out labour protection terms for Filipino seafarers throughout their employment.


Improving transparency and accountability levels the playing field for all. It drives performance improvements and enables better, sustainable decision-making. The EU Sustainability reporting directive facilitates this. Under the Directive, all large corporations operating within the EU will need to disclose data on the impact of their activities on people, the planet, and any sustainability risks exposed. This will inevitably impact shipping.


Finance has a key role to play in enabling a sustainable shipping industry. Developing financial solutions that reward sustainable performance and enable large-scale uptake of innovation, technology, design, and operational efficiencies is vital. The International Climate Bonds Standard launched its Shipping Criteria, providing shipowners and operators with technical guidance to evaluate whether a shipping project or asset contributes to climate change mitigation, and more recently, the Poseidon Principles tightened their environmental benchmarks to include the Paris Agreement temperature cap of limiting planetary warming to well below 1.5°C.


The latest IPCC’s message was clear, we need to act now to limit global temperature increase. It is crucial for shipping to reach zero emissions by 2050 in a way that is resource efficient, responsible, and avoids negative biodiversity impacts. The Science Based Targets Initiative launched their maritime guidance, a framework for the shipping industry to set near- and long-term science-based targets that align with the Paris Agreement. Regionally, the EU has also set a variety of measures to reduce emissions in shipping, from FuelEU Maritime to including shipping in the Emission trading scheme. And hope remains for ambitious decarbonisation targets to be set at IMO MEPC80 in a couple of weeks.

This is all progress.

Change is accelerating, but urgent action is needed. More needs to happen, quickly. Over the next few days, you will hear from various leaders about their actions to propel a resilient, sustainable shipping industry. I encourage you all to remember these learnings and be part of the change you want to see in the world. To all of the organisations here today, I ask you all to continue raising your ambitions and show the world that shipping will be a leader in catalysing this change.

Many will worry about finance. Can we afford to do this? The harsh reality is that we cannot afford not to. We cannot continue to talk finance on a dead planet. Investing now will deliver for companies, societies, and the planet. Investing now will ensure our future.

Sustainability issues are interconnected, and they require a collaborative systems approach to tackle them and build a future-proof, efficient industry. This is a collective endeavour that requires collective accountability.

Together, we can do this.”

Watch the speech