Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet - World Maritime Day 2020

24 September 2020

Discussion with Alex Pepper, Peel Ports Group Head of Energy and Environment, on the importance of noting World Maritime Day.

What is the background to World Maritime Day?

World Maritime Day has been around for many years now and is an official United Nations (UN) day of note where we take time to reflect and give thanks to the contribution of the international maritime industry and how it contributes towards the UN’s objectives. This year is particularly important and the IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim’s video for World Maritime Day gives a snapshot of the role shipping plays in delivering essential goods, particularly medical supplies, food, and fuel. He goes on to remind us that 80% of goods are transported by international shipping and that is considered to be the most reliable, efficient and cost effective method of international transport of goods.

Why are you interested in this year in particular?

This year’s theme is ‘Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet’ so looks at both the environmental benefits of using shipping as a method of transport and where there can be development to improve/reduce the impacts of shipping. Some of the IMO work on the decarbonisation of international shipping, reducing marine litter, and protecting the environment are in line with this. 

What does this day mean to Peel Ports?

Our business relies on it's interface with the marine environment and the gateway to the international community that is created through our ports.  The maritime industry, and shipping in particular, bring us the goods that come through our ports and get delivered on to our customers. Around 13,000 cargo vessels come to our ports each year and these bring goods that go on to supply us, at the supermarket and our homes with essentials, as well as businesses with their raw ingredients and fuels. It is important that we take a short time to reflect on this and give thanks to the role that shipping plays in all of our lives.

What about the sustainable shipping theme, do ports have a role to play in that?

Absolutely, I think this year’s theme is great and focuses the mind on both the role shipping is playing as well as acknowledging that it also needs to do more going forward to become more sustainable (as do we all!). As a port operator, we have a role to play in helping to facilitate services to ships visiting us, such as waste reception facilities or access to alternative fuels. We also play a role in making sure the areas within our jurisdiction are protected and would take action against anyone seen to be polluting or discharging marine litter into the environment. 

You sound quite passionate about all of this?

It is great to see these subjects being discussed and promoted. Shipping is an efficient and effective method of transport, but like everything it can be improved. We have a busy environmental agenda and I can see how the pieces we all work on start to fit together and move us all in a more sustainable direction. For example, we are currently looking at the development of port air quality strategies and some of this work has included looking at the emissions to air from ships. Some of the changes that have been brought in to reduce the sulphur limits in fuel etc will have already had a positive impact on the emissions to air in our local areas. Equally, as we move forward and ships decarbonise further there will be a benefit to the port’s air quality.

So, what would you say were the key things to note on this year’s World Maritime Day?

I think the first thing to come to mind when we talk about World Maritime Day is always the people. Shipping requires people and the maritime industry is made up of people from all around the world and many of them spend days and months away from their homes, I always think that is worth some reflection. Shipping is so important to us all and the global economy, it is often quite unseen to us particularly when we are buying a product by clicking online or from a supermarket shelf. Thinking of the theme this year, it is perhaps particularly relevant given this very difficult year, and as we start to look to recovery that we take the opportunities to become more sustainable at the same time. Shipping will be part of our futures, particularly here at Peel Ports, and we therefore need to be thinking about what is required for ‘Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet’.