The Zero Emissions Future for Cargo Shipping Containers

Climate change is no longer just a buzzword, but a pressing issue facing our planet. Achieving net-zero emissions is a hugely important task to reduce the disastrous effects of climate change, and this doesn’t exclude the necessary efforts required from the shipping container industry.

It is relatively common knowledge that the production of electricity and the burning of fossil fuels has catastrophic consequences on our environment. Pollution, in general, is a critical threat, and unfortunately, the cargo shipping industry is responsible for a significant amount of it. With around 90% of global goods transported by sea on cargo ships, the associated environmental threats are undeniably a pressing matter.

Achieving net-zero emissions refers to a balance between greenhouse gas emissions produced and greenhouse gas emissions taken out of the atmosphere. So how does the container industry play a role in this picture, and what is the industry currently doing to become more carbon neutral?

What’s The Problem?

Climate science has made it abundantly clear that the extent of global warming is directly correlated to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that human activities contribute to the atmosphere. Under this human activity, category falls the cargo shipping container industry.

While shipping containers are arguably strong, durable, and reliable entities within an industry that can function extensively on a global scale, this doesn’t excuse them from being a part of the climate change dilemma.

The amount of CO2 emissions from cargo shipping is shockingly huge. While this is partially due to the industry's size, the produced emissions are higher than the combined CO2 emissions from entire countries, such as the UK. While it is difficult to visualise just how much carbon dioxide that is, the numbers are a clear indication of how concerning this issue truly is.

In addition to the carbon emissions, cargo ships also release nitrous oxides and sulphur oxides, which pose additional threats to the state of the environment. As one of the largest shipping lanes, the Asia-Europe route generates more emissions than any cargo route at sea.

Despite this bleak scenario, if manufacturers continue to become aware of this issue, there is hope that zero-emission fuels and vessels will be deployed to meet emission targets.

Whats The Problem

What’s Being Done?

Now that this issue is increasingly coming to fruition, shipping container companies are globally becoming more proactive and developing innovative solutions to reduce emissions from shipping vessels.

Fortunately, we live in an era where technology has never been more advanced, providing a multitude of resources to fill us with hope. As a result, new ships are being designed using a variety of carbon-reducing technologies such as wind energy and solar power.

While certain governments are pushing for change, NGO’s and not-for-profit organisations are at the forefront of any specific attempts to call for the decarbonisation of this industry.

Green corridors

The concept of green corridors is traditionally a wildlife corridor built to bridge habitat/environmental populations that have been split by human activity.

One of the main issues for switching from fossil fuels to zero-emission ships is cost. So, green corridors regarding the cargo shipping industry are the idea of reducing this cost gap by forming joint ventures and utilising mechanisms that share costs and emission reductions among cargo companies in specific routes.

The Getting to Zero Coalition is pioneering this concept and taking it on as a work in progress, scaling up their thinking to fully decarbonise the shipping sector by 2050. They describe the logic behind their work in thorough detail, explaining green corridors potential to:

  • Leverage favourable conditions for action by encouraging policymakers to incorporate targeted regulatory measures, financial incentives, and safety regulations,
  • Put conditions in place to mobilise demand for green shipping on specific routes, and;
  • Help catalyse accelerated decarbonisation by creating subsequent effects to reduce emissions in other corridors.

While these efforts are gallant, a global transition to zero-emission shipping will be complex for everyone. However, this work surrounding green corridors suggests that they could do a great deal to generate momentum towards zero-emission solutions if the ball gets rolling quickly and expansively.

Green corridors

‘Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonisation’

In addition to the tangible research being done surrounding green corridors, The Getting to Zero Coalition has also published a ​​Call to Action for Decarbonisation report. The signatories involved with this initiative are pushing for urgent and immediate action, deeming the decarbonisation of the cargo supply chain by 2050 possible and necessary.

Within this initiative, more than 200 stakeholders from the cargo industry signed the call to action to adopt a sector-wide goal of zero emissions and the commercial deployment of zero-emission vessels by 2030.

Ultimately, the intentions are structured, backed by research into the issue and industry sector, and aim to protect the interests of all stakeholders and the environment.

With the latest technological developments and climate change science, the target for zero shipping emissions by 2050 resulted as a direct reflection of the need and ability to make a change now.

To achieve this essential yet mammoth goal, deploying commercially viable zero-emission vessels by 2030 was also implemented. Advocating for long-term climate ambition is optimistic but impossible without tangible steps towards success.

Taking tangible action now is fundamental to achieving the 2050 goal, and according to the report, can be achieved through collaboration across the cargo industry and government sectors to:

  • Refine zero-emission technologies to ensure safety, reliability, and sustainability,
  • Implement industrial-scale demonstration projects,
  • Close the competitive economic gap through policy action, and;
  • Unlock global growth opportunities.

Call to Action for Shipping Decarbonisation

In Summary

The widespread nature of the cargo shipping industry means this issue is most certainly a global one. While here in Australia, we are unfortunately not on track towards reaching 2030 domestic emission targets, there is hope within this particular global industry sector.

Much like the durable nature of shipping containers, the industry is just as challenging. The technology exists, climate change science is prevalent, and the industry can adapt. With continuous research, calls to action, and potential policy changes, achieving zero-emission goals within the cargo industry is possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about the wide world of the shipping container industry, contact the team at Tiger Containers. We specialise in the reliable steel boxes you know as shipping containers, and are here to help you stay informed and potentially invest in your own container.