5 green shipping initiatives for a more sustainable supply chain

5 green shipping initiatives for a more sustainable supply chain

Green shipping is the practice of transporting goods by ship using as few resources and energy as possible to protect the environment from pollution. Green shipping advocates more environmentally friendly procedures to provide pollution control, efficient port management, a sustainable supply chain and proper equipment maintenance.

In 2012, the shipping industry burned around 300 million tons of fuel oil, resulting in 949 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Without coordinated action, these emissions are projected to more than double by 2050.

The world’s cargo and container companies are central to global supply networks, but have made little progress towards decarbonization until recently. This situation must change if the world is to reach zero emissions by 2050.

Green supply chain management is gaining prominence in organizations to manage environmental issues. The main reason for implementing supply chain sustainability is to prevent pollution from industrial waste. Clearly, logistics activities have significantly increased air pollution, affecting both the environment and the economy.

In order to make the supply chain more sustainable, here are some shipping initiatives that are currently being developed:

1. Exploring future fuels.

Hydrogen is gaining momentum internationally as the most environmentally friendly future fuel source. In that regard, many shipping industry stakeholders have written to the EU Commission to encourage the use of green hydrogen by ships as part of the impending marine fuel regulation.

The advantages of using hydrogen as a fuel include zero emissions and less vibration and noise in a fuel cell. However, there are disadvantages, which include:

  • The need for cryogenic storage
  • Difficult to extract
  • Can cause metal embrittlement.

Meanwhile, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an alternative fuel for ships, however, this option is not safe. Keep in mind that safety is crucial, and zero emissions should not be taken for granted. Using gas as fuel is not suitable for many ships and requires modifications to ship construction and equipment.

Using LNG as fuel reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) by 20% and sulfur oxide (SO2) and nitric oxide (NO) by 80%. While LNG fuel is environmentally friendly, there are some major disadvantages when used as a ship fuel. :

  • The need to install engines capable of running on LNG fuel.
  • Additional funds are needed for equipment other than engines, such as gasoline tanks that are two to three times larger than normal tanks and relicensing equipment.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is working to reduce sulfur levels in ship fuel. That said, the shipping industry started to consider low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO), marine gas oil (MGO), LNG and even current fuel with scrubbers in the exhaust stacks.

ship in the international terminal logistic sea port concept

2. Slow sailing

Slow boating is the practice of slowing a boat’s speed between 12 and 19 knots. This could result in a reduction in speed of up to 50%. A slower driving pace often results in fuel savings. In the case of a container ship, slower sailing at 21 knots per day can reduce fuel use to 200 tons.

This strategy has already benefited several shipping lines. Maersk has been sailing at slow speed since 2007, reducing engine load by 35% without mechanical problems. Maersk is also working on super slow steaming, which reduces engine power by 90 %.

3. Container management

Empty containers account for a large share of marine emissions. Empty containers, unlike full containers, must meet an internal requirement of shipping lines, allowing for more integrated planning techniques with emissions.

If you want to improve the efficiency and safety of the shipping supply chain, you can use smart shipping containers to do so. With a sensor-equipped container, data on anything from the temperature of the container to its precise position can be collected in real time.

The supply chain can benefit from the collection of such data. By using accurate sensor data, it is possible to reduce the amount of repositioning and the amount of fuel used in container transport. Transportation and repositioning of empty containers amount to USD $20 billion annually in fuel costs and are major sources of energy loss.

4. Water ballast

When large container ships are unladen, they use water as ballast to keep them stable. While ballast water is necessary for today’s safe and efficient maritime operations, the various species carried in the ship’s ballast water can pose significant ecological challenges. These include bacteria, microorganisms, microscopic invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae of many species.

These species can survive to establish a breeding population in the host habitat, becoming invasive, outcompeting native species and growing to pest proportions. For this reason, the IMO established ballast water sterilization requirements.

5. Alternative forms of energy generation

The power of wind and sun can be used to power all types of ships, helping to reduce fuel use, emissions and greenhouse gases. Fukuoka, Japan, is home to a company called Eco Marine Power (EMP), which focuses on making ships run on renewable energy.

They are committed to creating and developing zero-emission sail-assisted propulsion systems for wind- and solar-powered ships. The solutions developed at EMP will help shipyards and ship owners meet Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) standards.


Although shipping is the cleanest and safest means of cargo transportation, achieving green shipping is a major challenge for the shipping industry. Essential technologies must be developed to transform the shipping industry into a sustainable one. The most difficult aspects of green shipping are the search for viable energy sources and the development of methods to store that energy.