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The Freight Shipping Industry: Does the Future Look Green?

02 Jun 20:00 by Green Energy

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The Freight Shipping Industry: Does the Future Look Green?

When you look at freight delivery services as a whole, it’s fair to say that this global service is something which requires a great deal of planning and effort. Each and every day millions of items are moved on domestic and international level and these can range is size and scale, being transported by a variety of different vehicles and machines. 

With this though comes the obvious environmental knock-on effects that can occur from such a vast amount of global production. It’s no secret that the emissions from, and the use of, fossil fuels in vehicles, tankers and planes are a factor in global warming and the causing of the ‘greenhouse effect’. 

On top of this, there’s also the amount of materials used in the packaging and creation of the goods being shipped. But, with so many businesses relying on their supply chains, the reality is we cannot simply stop these imports and exports.

There are efforts underway however to make logistics greener and more environmentally-friendly, but given the massive scale of global shipping it does beg the question of whether or not this will lead to a green enough future. Here, we take a closer look at the current situation for this industry and what steps, if any, are being put in place by different nations.

The Greenest Option?

A 2016 article on Nature.com, claims that shipping via sea with cargo tankers is the ‘most energy-efficient way’ of moving goods around the world, compared to other methods. This is due in part to the fact you can move a bigger volume of items at one time, compared to the numerous trips that would be needed by land, rail and air. 

Despite this though, it wouldn’t be fair to say this is the ‘greenest option’, a more appropriate description would perhaps be the more ‘practical’ solution. However, many delivery companies may disagree with this practicality, as in terms of speed sea freight shipping can be one of the slowest methods of transport. 

Other Solutions

As well as Government-led regulations, there are other practices being adopted by many companies to help make their operations more eco-friendly. These can include:

  • Investing in newer machinery and road vehicles which are more efficient

  • Reducing the amount of packaging used, or using more biodegradable or green materials in this packaging

  • Streamlining supply chains and learning more about different international delivery solutions before using them

  • Using alternative fuels (such as biodiesel) to power vehicles, ships and planes

An Uncertain Future?

The UN currently has its own sustainability goals which in part aim to match both economic growth with protecting the planet. This does spread out into the shipping industry and with other green legislations from major political bodies such as the EU, there are steps being made towards a more sustainable future.

Another progressive example is the International Maritime Organisation’s agreement to ‘set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels’ by 2020-2025. 

Despite these though, there is still a lot of uncertainty about whether or not these are achievable, particularly with recent happenings such as the UK’s decision to leave the EU and also America’s recent move to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Agreement. Both of these moves could affect the success of these targets, as these respective nations look to create their own rules.

The Bottom Line

With all this in mind, it would seem that whether or not the future is indeed ‘green’ for the shipping world remains to be seen. The hope is of course that countries and companies will look to adopt the most environmentally-friendly policies and approaches they can to help both improve the situation and help secure the longevity of the industry itself.