The hosts, speakers, panellists and moderators of the Decarbonising shipping panel. Jan-Christoph, Kitack Lim, John Kerry, Dr. Jorge Rivera, Susan Ruffo, Andrew Stephens, Antonio Dominguez, and Sue Biniaz.

13 March 2023 – On the 2nd and 3rd of March, SSI’s Executive Director, Andrew Stephens, travelled to and spoke at the Our Ocean conference in Panama.

The Our Ocean conference is a high-level event focused on fostering cross-stakeholder partnerships between governments, industry, academia, and civil society. The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Our Ocean, Our Connection’, and focused on knowledge as a basis for action. Every Our Ocean conference sees the announcement of multiple commitments, and this one was no exception. Over the period of two days, over 341 commitments worth nearly $2 billion were made. With topics ranging from deep-sea mining, plastic pollution, overfishing, and shipping, the conference provides the opportunity for all industries and stakeholders to listen and learn from different experiences, problems, and ambitions. At the end of the conference, one thing was clear. We all have a responsibility to current and future generations, to species, and to our planet to move away from our flawed and dominant “business as usual” model.

Although often discussed separately, shipping is a critical stakeholder of the ocean, and the ocean a key stakeholder for shipping. For SSI, this was an opportunity to directly amplify and share our ambition and learnings through participation in two panels. Crucially, it was also an opportunity to listen and learn. Shipping does not operate in its own bubble, and the impacts of our actions reverberate further than we might want to recognise. The conference highlighted the urgent need to take ownership of our actions and impacts today. For shipping, this means playing our part in limiting global temperature increase to below 1.5°C, taking responsibility for safeguarding the oceans we operate in, and acting as a trusted partner in the port and coastal communities we operate with and affect.

"Our Ocean, Our Connection"

Shipping and oceans go hand in hand. We are each other’s key stakeholders, with shipping impacts on oceans ranging from the transport of invasive species, to underwater noise, to harmful washwater discharge from open-loop scrubbers. Shipping is dependent on resilient oceanic and coastal systems – yet, our actions are actively contributing to the opposite of this. This was highlighted during the maritime security panel. Responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we are an industry that is actively contributing to environmental degradation, sea level rise, stress on resources, and much more. According to Transport and Environment, if shipping does not change, we will be responsible for 10% of global GHG emissions by 2050. The impact of climate change will disrupt our industry, from increasing re-routing and port infrastructure damage to lower productivity and additional operating costs, and decreased demand for service. According to EDF, ‘without further action to reduce emissions, climate change impacts could cost the shipping industry an additional $25 billion every year by 2100’.

Thankfully, sustainable shipping is possible and necessary. Shipping will remain a critical sector, but it needs future-proofing. According to the Climate Champions and the Getting to Zero Coalition, we need 5% scalable zero-emission fuels in the shipping mix by 2030, rapidly scaling in the 2040s to be on a pathway to zero by 2050. On the Roadmap to a Sustainable shipping industry, SSI calls for 60% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, and 90% by 2040, to achieve zero by 2050. Although ambitious, these targets are based on a simple fact – we need to start taking action now.

This change goes beyond switching to alternative fuels. We need systemic change throughout the entire shipping lifecycle, from considering well-to-wake impacts of fuel choices to increasing circularity in shipping and including seafarers within this transition. Shipping is the world’s scope 3 emissions, therefore, increased efforts to reduce emissions benefits all. The world needs resilient and sustainable supply chains to adapt and enable sustainable global systems, and shipping has a crucial role to play in this.

The demand for increased sustainability in shipping is coming from all angles, from CoZEV to increased regulation, and this was highlighted in the decarbonising shipping panel. It means companies have much to gain from being early adopters. But shipping’s energy transition is not about gaining a competitive advantage, it’s about securing a future for the sector and creating resilient supply chains that can continue to enable global trade.

“Good for business” is not just an added bonus, instead, it’s rapidly becoming a license to operate in a world with planetary and social boundaries to take into consideration. It is no longer enough to do the bare minimum, and those who do not go beyond will see themselves left behind.

Already, we see the impacts of climate change on shipping. On ports alone, the majority are exposed to natural hazards such as cyclones, earthquakes, and flooding. This is putting $63.1 billion of trade at risk annually, particularly in Small Developing States (SIDS). We live in a critical time. As former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon put it “ours can be the first generation to end poverty – and the last generation to address climate change before it is too late”.

We have the opportunity to do better. Some will say that we can’t afford to do this, but the real question is: can we afford not to?

Andrew Stephens alongside the Maritime Security Panel.

Andrew Stephens spoke at the Maritime Security Panel, alongside Carlos Del Toro (United States Secretary of the Navy), Iliya Espino De Marotta (Deputy administrator of Panama Canal Authority), Denis Aheto (The Africa centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience), Cleopatra Doumbia Henry (President of the World Maritime University), and moderated by Major Lloyd Jones, Belize Port Authority Chairman. Watch the panel here.

Andrew Stephens spoke at Decarbonising shipping panel, hosted by US Department of State, Government of Canada, United Nations Foundation, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping (MMMCZCS), High level climate champions and UCL. The panel was moderated by Susan Ruffo (UN Foundation), and Jan-Christoph Napierski, MMMCZCS. Andrew spoke alongside Sue Biniaz (US Deputy Special Presidential Envoy for Climate), and Antonio Dominguez (Maersk, President, Central America, Andina and the Caribbean Sea Area). Watch the panel here.