Today, as the world moves through a year of life with COVID-19 pandemic, discussions of strengthening sustainability in the global shipping and trade industry is taking a front line approach. Victor Restis, president of Enterprises Shipping & Trade S.A.,recognizes a growing awareness in the maritime sector due to the COVID-19 experience and the push for more sustainable measures and various processes to implement new procedures are on the rise.

The direct value of sustainability has not been entirely realized by all companies within the industry. However, the industry as a whole is aware of the effects and impact that large-scale sustainability practices can provide. Restis points out that the International Maritime Organization (IMO)has already proposed several aggressive targets for the shipping industry, starting with a 40 percent improvement in ship efficiency by 2030 and a 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has further accelerated these ambitious goals, and the maritime industry is working toward these goals expeditiously to mitigate comprehensive climate control and the potentially disastrous effects of climate change or future pandemics.

According to a recent article, every country in the world, with a few exceptions, has agreed to the global conservation goals of 2030 and 2050. This means that every shipping company headquartered in these participating countries has also adopted and integrated these goals on a company-wide scale and is working to achieve these targets simultaneously to maintain good standing within the maritime industry. Restis agrees that country leaders and industry C-suite personnel must be on the same page to effectively and efficiently adopt practices to achieve these industry-set goals.

Maritime transport enterprises throughout the world have taken this need for compliance seriously and are proactively involved in implementing initiatives for increased organizational sustainability, especially given what the industry has learned from the global pandemic. The Sustainable Shipping Initiative is a prime example where industry leaders have come together to chart an aggressive, yet achievable, roadmap targeting improvements toward compliance-related aspects of each sector within the overall industry.

Two of the top areas of improvement coming off the heels of COVID-19 are increasing vessel efficiency and the use of sustainable alternatives. Tethered to climate change, ship energy efficiency is a hot topic, and countries all across the globe are investing in research and development to meet the new vessel energy standards mandated by the IMO.New technologies are helping achieve goals, but there are other processes that can be implemented more quickly. Gas cleaning systems, use of cleaner ballast water, use of alternative fuels, leveraging natural resources for power generation, reducing marine litter, improving ship recycling processes, and slow steaming are all under consideration for changes in cargo shipping vessel sustainability.

Restis finds interest in how the global pandemic has increased research and innovation toward initiatives that aim to reduce environmental impact and make vessels more environment friendly.

With the pandemic still very much a problem globally, such aggressive goals will take time to implement.Fear of outbreaks, lack of awareness, reluctance for investment, and the absence of familiarity with advanced technology is just the beginning when it comes to implementing effective, industry-wide change. With that said, the global pandemic has bonded seafarers and all other members of the maritime industry toward the common goal of overcoming challenges and navigating uncharted waters towards a strengthened and more sustainable industry.