Shipping has the potential to be a clean and sustainable means of transport, but whether the issue is marine litter, oil discharges to the sea, the use of harmful antifouling coatings, oil tanker safety, the transfer of alien species, air pollution, or climate change the shipping industry has consistently failed to realise its potential. It prefers voluntary measures over regulation, tends towards end-of-pipe fixes over an integrated approach, and has effectively lobbied for a “light touch” approach from regulators.

Seas At Risk has worked on most of these shipping issues but is focussed at present on ship-source marine litter, air pollution and GHG emissions.

Guiding this work is a belief that to fully realise its potential the shipping industry must adopt an integrated approach to reducing its environmental footprint. Seas At Risk calls this the “Clean Ship” approach.

 A Clean Ship is a ship designed and operated in an integrated manner to eliminate harmful operational discharges and emissions; it is a ship that is constructed and can ultimately be recycled in an environmentally acceptable way, and one that is energy and resource efficient in its daily operation. A Clean Ship operation maximises the opportunities for safe and environmental navigation while at the same time providing all possible safeguards in the event of an accident. It requires a shipping sector that puts safety and environmental protection first. While this is a long way from what we routinely experience it is now very much in-line with the ambitions of regulators and is consistent with much of industry best practice. Research and development is needed in some areas but if all shipping adopted the technologies and practices that are currently being used by the best operators then the industry would be 90% of the way to implementing a Clean Ship approach.

Unfortunately the quality operators occupy a small niche in an otherwise environmentally sub-standard industry, and regulations are rarely an encouragement to high standards, normally lagging far behind current best available technologies and practices.

Seas At Risk’s work in this area is now focussing on closing this gap between regulatory standards and the best currently available technologies and practices.

In this work Seas At Risk is cooperating closely with other organisations and in particular with fellow members of the Clean Shipping Coalition, a joint-NGO group with Consultative Status at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the UN body where shipping regulations are agreed .