The world's largest container shipping company, MAERSKB.CO, has donated 400 million Danish crowns (£48.6 million) to carry out research in Denmark in order to assess how carbon emissions could be reduced in the shipping industry. Container shipping accounts for 3% of the world’s carbon emissions due to its transportation of over 80% of global goods. The industry has confirmed its objective for container ships to have reduced carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030.


A large ship in a body of water

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Source. Reuters/Michel Kooren

Historically, ships that sailed the oceans transporting goods around the world relied on wind and it was not until 1819 that a ship called SS Savannah, partially powered by steam as well as sails, managed to cross the Atlantic. Unfortunately for the health of the planet, we have transitioned from environmentally friendly, wind-powered ships to bunker oil-powered vessels, now coming under pressure to be cleaned up. The most promising solutions are those based on hydrogen, hybrid and battery modules, with these becoming the ‘new norm’ for container ships as clients such as Unilever and Volkswagen increasingly demand for the vessels to be more environmentally sustainable.

Already there are a number of these hybrid solutions in shipping with it now being possible to use more environmentally friendly fuels and to add battery modules to a ship, thus enabling the sailing to or from port without powering up the vessel’s diesel engines. Ports around the world are already investing in solutions to enable ships at dock to be powered by electric drives at the port in an effort to improve air quality and reduce engine noise pollution. California already has air pollution laws restricting container ship emissions in port.

One of the roles offered by Blockchain technology is that of facilitating data to be collected, stored and then shared in order that the end consumers, manufacturers, governments and shipping companies can all access information showing how much carbon is being emitted as goods are transported across the globe. In addition, a further challenge for the shipping industry in reducing its carbon footprint is the quality of the bunker oil it uses. A UK-based company, BunkerTrace, uses a combination of a fuel additive and Blockchain technology to track and trace the bunker oil being used as well as the source from where it comes. This ensures that ships are only using fuel from verifiable and accredited sources. 

As ever, Blockchain technology does not offer a silver bullet solution to solve the challenges of carbon emissions in the shipping industry. However, by using Blockchain technology along with other technologies such as AI, IoT, we are beginning to amass a clearer understanding and greater visibility of those areas requiring a much-needed focus with regards to the long-term health of the planet.