Almost everything you consume, from your weekly supermarket trip to the presents you order online, arrives by cargo ship. Shipping is the engine of the world economy, transporting eleven billion tonnes of goods each year. Despite the clear environmental crisis, shipping emissions have doubled since 1990 to more than one billion tonnes of CO2 – more than aviation, more than all of Germany, or even France, Britain, and Italy combined. As the shipping industry is forecast to grow threefold by 2050, full decarbonisation is urgent to limit catastrophic climate change. To understand whether there are any realistic alternatives to the polluting status quo of the container shipping industry, in 2020, Christiaan De Beukelaer spent 150 days as part of a sailing crew aboard the Avontuur, a century-old two-masted schooner fitted for cargo. This book recounts both this personal odyssey and the journey the shipping industry is embarking on to cut its carbon emissions. It shows that the Avontuur’s mission remains as crucial as ever: the shipping industry needs to cut its use of fossil fuels as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will face excessive global warming and the dire outcomes that will bring. The book explores our path to an uncertain future. It argues that shipping symbolises the kind of economy we’ve built: a gargantuan global machine that delivers the goods at an enormous environmental cost. Merely eliminating carbon emissions or improving efficiency won’t solve the underlying issue. If we can’t make shipping truly sustainable, we can’t solve the climate crisis.
-zero target sooner. 39 There is no time to wait until 2030 to start deploying zero emissions vessels at scale. We need, at the very least, 5 percent of the global fleet to run on zero-emission fuels by 2030 to stand a chance at meeting the 1.5 degrees Paris Agreement target. 40 In the meantime, the efficiency of the fleet has to be improved. ‘Technologically,’ the leading shipping decarbonisation scientist Tristan Smith told me, ‘we do know there are solutions like wind assistance, like air lubrication, like
drove him to play a crucial role in securing regulation at the IMO. Prior to the 68th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in 2015, support for shipping decarbonisation was feeble and uncoordinated. The European Union had tried pushing through a target since 2003, but as they had no formal representation, they failed. 28 It did not help that shipping executives simply did not believe the sector would ever be able to decarbonise. 29 Their power over decision-making at the IMO
‘decarbonise’ shipping would be the solution. It brings down the carbon intensity of the vessel, which helps the company meet IMO regulations while building its credentials as a company committed to reducing its carbon footprint. Shipping decarbonisation is essential, but so is rethinking the fossil fuel exports and unsustainable levels of consumption it enables. Without ships, Australia would not be able to export coal. ‘Time flies,’ I wrote in my notes while at sea. ‘The days just disappear.’ With every day, drastic climate
considering that Mærsk CEO Skou defended the company’s expansion of air freight capacity ‘saying it would be customer demand not Maersk’s push into air freight that would decide how much cargo was transported by aircraft.’ 22 That’s right, while Mærsk claims to be a leader in shipping decarbonisation, it invests in the most polluting and most difficult to decarbonise means of cargo transport. The tension between the abstract target of full decarbonisation and the lack of a clear and realisable pathway also dominated The Economist