An Industry Guide to Carbon-Neutral Shipping

Transporting everything from cars and bananas to iPhones, it’s estimated that 80% of the world’s goods are carried by sea. The shipping industry accounts for about 3% of global emissions, which puts the sector just ahead of Germany as the world’s sixth biggest polluter if it were a nation.


On the other hand, the shipping industry has made massive strides to transform the carbon footprint of its sector in recent years. Spinning cylinders and huge kite sails are just two technologies that utilize the power of the wind to assist in moving ships across oceans, helping to cut fuel consumption by around 10%. Coupled with computer programs that model wind speed and direction, allowing vessels to optimize their journeys, and saving ships a further 10% of fuel.


Innovation is the key ingredient within the marine transportation sector when it comes to deep decarbonization. In this article, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions management experts at SINAI offer an industry guide to carbon-neutral shipping, explaining what precisely carbon-neutral shipping is, why it matters, and best practices when it comes to reducing shipping carbon emissions.

What is carbon neutral shipping?

Carbon-neutral shipping is a type of transportation that doesn't produce emissions as a result of shipping goods across oceans. This type of shipping is seen as green, sustainable, and environmentally friendly because it doesn’t bring any carbon emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. Carbon-neutral shipping is good for air quality and it helps slow down climate change, making it generally good for the planet, if it can be achieved. 


In other words, when delivered effectively, carbon-neutral shipping produces a net-zero amount of carbon dioxide. With CO2 remaining as one of the leading reasons for climate change, pivoting to carbon-neutral shipping helps protect the environment and improve the air we breathe with better monitoring of our CO2 emissions. 


Three best practices for achieving carbon-neutral shipping 


When it comes to achieving the deep decarbonization needed in the marine transportation industry, three best practices have emerged that offer the most significant opportunity in reaching net-zero shipping emissions. They include:


  1. Setting a science-based emissions reduction target, 
  2. Improving operations with next-generation technology,  
  3. Using alternative fuels, and 
  4. Accurate carbon accounting.



Setting a science-based GHG emissions target

Working towards ambitious emissions targets leads to a long-term competitive advantage, not to mention the cost and operational efficiency benefits due to innovation and the alignment of business strategies and models. 

By setting a science-based emissions reduction target, your firm can inch ahead and be prepared for current and future government regulations while boosting investor confidence, consumer perception, and overall brand reputation.

Improve operations with next-generation technology

Improving the energy efficiency of vessels through technological means can produce one part of the needed emission reductions. Readily available options include hull design improvements, bulbous bows that reduce friction, air lubrication, and waste heat recovery from the ship that’s then used as a source of clean energy. 

Operational measures such as reduced speeds, also known as slow steaming, smoother ship-port interactions, and bigger ships that carry more freight in relation to energy used could achieve further and necessary emission reductions. 

Cut shipping carbon emissions with alternative fuels  

Alternative fuels and renewable energy can deliver a significant amount of the required carbon shipping emissions reductions. Advanced biofuels are already here and available, although in limited quantities. Over time, biofuels should be complemented by other natural or synthetic fuels including hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia. 

Vessels assisted by wind are already reaping additional reductions when it comes to shipping carbon emissions. The first electric vessels are already providing transportation on short-distance routes.

Accurate carbon accounting 

Many alternative fuels available to the shipping industry produce low levels of carbon dioxide when burned. But the carbon emissions emitted from their production need to be properly accounted for, or you’ll just be transferring pollution from one place to another. 


Hydrogen can, for example, be produced in different ways that can lead to very high or very low CO2 emissions.

Navigate to a carbon-neutral shipping future with ease 


With a focus on setting a science-based emissions reduction target, improving operations through the use of technology, exploring alternative fuels, and ensuring accurate carbon accounting, your firm can make a real impact when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint of shipping. SINAI’s leading decarbonization platform is trusted by many in the marine transportation sector. 


Through our dynamic and intuitive platform, you’ll be able to easily benchmark your firm against peers in your sector, using robust insight and data. 


Whether your firm is following CDP, SASB, GRI, TCFD, or another framework, our software solution makes reporting straightforward and simple. Reach out for a demo today and see for yourself how easy it can be to manage compliance with local and international regulations, while you work towards achieving carbon-neutral shipping.

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