World Maritime Day 2022: Middle East Poised To Lead in Green Shipping 
Shipping freighter (Pixabay)

World Maritime Day 2022: Middle East Poised To Lead in Green Shipping 

Maritime trade plays a key role in the Middle East and North Africa, with four of the five best-performing ports in the world located in the region

The next time you eat your favorite food, take your daily medicine or put on a new pair of shoes, spend a minute to think about how it got to you. Chances are that it spent some time on a ship that transported it from another country located on a different continent and even in a different hemisphere. When maritime transportation breaks down, we feel it – as the world saw recently due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to supply chain shortages that affected goods ranging from toilet paper to cars, and now due to the war in Ukraine, which disrupted the world’s grain supply.  

Some 2 million people work in the world’s merchant fleet, transporting around 80% of world trade in everything ranging from food and medicine to clothes and electronics.  

International shipping even has its own specialized agency in the United Nations – the International Maritime Agency (IMO).  

So, it is no surprise that people around the globe mark World Maritime Day every year, on September 29. The theme for this year’s World Maritime Day is “New technologies for greener shipping.”   

The first World Maritime Day was observed on March 17, 1978, to commemorate the day on which the IMO Convention setting down the extensive international regulations and legislation that govern all seafaring activities came into effect. 

According to the United Nations, the theme for this year “reflects the need to support a green transition of the maritime sector into a sustainable future, while leaving no one behind. It provides an opportunity to focus on the importance of a sustainable maritime sector and the need to build back better and greener in a post-pandemic world.” 

The IMO has set the promotion of sustainable shipping and sustainable maritime development as its priorities in the coming years. This means increasing energy efficiency, new technology, and innovation for maritime vessels and ports located around the world. It also includes increasing the development and implementation of global standards to provide the institutional framework necessary for a green and sustainable global maritime transportation system. 

“The maritime sector must accelerate its voyage to decarbonization,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement in honor of World Maritime Day 2022. “Without concerted action, emissions from shipping are projected to grow by up to 250% by 2050 over 2008 levels. Governments and private companies need to work together to harness innovative technologies such as digitalization and automation and foster a just transition that includes developing countries and promotes renewable energy and alternative fuels.” 

Maritime trade plays a key role in the Middle East and North Africa. In fact, four of the five best-performing ports in the world are located in the region, according to the second edition of the global Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) developed by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence. 

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Port tops the list, with regional competitors Port Salalah in Oman, Hamad Port in Qatar, and Khalifa Port in Abu Dhabi all appearing in the top five. Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Islamic Port came in eighth place overall. 

The Moroccan port of Tanger-Med, the largest port in the Mediterranean, came in sixth place, the highest-ranked port in Europe and North Africa.  

The ranking is based on the time that vessels needed to spend in port to complete workloads during 2021, which determines which of the world’s ports are the most efficient. King Abdullah Port, for example, achieved an average of 97 container moves per hour of vessel port time; this is compared with 26 container moves per hour at the main ports on North America’s West Coast. 

King Abdullah Port is the region’s first port to be owned, developed, and operated by the private sector, according to the World Bank. Its recent upgrades include the creation of an e-portal for entry permits, 24-hour X-ray inspection capabilities, petrochemical warehousing, efficient links to land transportation, and the world’s deepest berths for giant container ships. 

Ports that increase their use of digital technology could streamline their operations and boost performance, experts say.  

“Increasing the use of digital technology and green fuel alternatives are two ways countries can modernize their ports and make maritime supply chains more resilient,” Martin Humphreys, lead transport economist at the World Bank and one of the researchers behind the index, said in a statement from the World Bank. “Inefficient ports represent a significant risk for many developing countries in that they can hinder economic growth, harm employment, and increase costs for importers and exporters. In the Middle East, heavy investments in container port infrastructure and technology are proving to be effective.” 

Meanwhile, hydrogen is emerging as a solution to maritime decarbonization, which could put the Middle East in line to be the leading producer and exporter of the clean energy source since hydrogen is a good way to store solar energy, Jostein Bogen, VP Global Product Line Manager, electric solutions, at ABB Marine & Ports., told Seatrade Maritime News. 

The use of hydrogen fuel cells to power ships and ports could help owners to meet the International Maritime Organization’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 50% by 2050 over 2008 levels.  

Hydrogen fuel cell technology currently is appropriate for running smaller vessels over short distances. For larger ships sailing to farther destinations, it will have to be used along with batteries and engines.   

No one can be certain about what global challenges lie ahead and how they will affect maritime transport.   

“As shipping continues to connect humanity, it must play an essential part in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and building a fair and prosperous future for people and planet,” Guterres concluded. 

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