Let's steer Maritime industry into green future

Nancy Karigithu, Kenya’s Special Envoy for Maritime and Blue Economy. [File, Standard]

Maritime transport is crucial to Africa’s economic development and international trade, as it provides the most efficient and cost-effective means of transporting goods to and from the continent.

Ships move about 90 percent of global commerce, making the shipping industry a key link in international markets and vital for the economic development of any nation. Without ships, the global economy as we know it, comprising roughly USD80 trillion gross product, would collapse.

Shipping, however, is also a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and a major cause of global warming. The maritime sector has been estimated to emit around one billion metric tonnes of GHG each year– equivalent to about two-thirds of entire Africa’s emissions.

Kenya’s seaport city of Mombasa last week hosted the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Conference on Low-Carbon Shipping in Africa. IMO, shipping’s global regulator partnered with the Association of African Maritime Administrators to explore sustainable pathways to low-carbon shipping in Africa. The Conference noted that Africa is most vulnerable to the climate crisis, with floods and droughts worsening health impacts, water stress, and food insecurity. Yet, the continent’s contribution to carbon emissions amounts to a paltry less than four percent of the global share.

To effectively fight climate change, increased efforts and resources need to go to adaptation as much as to mitigation for a better future. The maritime industry could lead the way in this clean drive.

African governments should urgently roll out policy interventions geared to accelerate the transition to low-carbon shipping. Policy measures such as tax and fiscal incentives and subsidies for fuel-efficient vessels or alternative fuels can incentivise the adoption of low-carbon shipping solutions and encourage private sector investment.

African economies can also promote the development of green port infrastructure, such as electrified cranes and charging stations for electric vehicles. This will help reduce emissions from port operations, which account for a significant portion of the sector’s carbon footprint. 

The green transition affords Africa an opportunity to align with broader development goals such as poverty eradication, job creation and economic growth. African governments can thus take advantage of partnerships and collaborative initiatives to benefit from these opportunities through knowledge transfer and technology to develop the above and other initiatives such as green corridors.

It will be important to have strong African voices at The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 80 coming up in July this year at the IMO. African Governments will have a chance to shape the discussions towards arriving at real 1.5C-aligned emissions reduction commitments by the shipping during this decade. Such regulatory clarity will help incentivise the massive green investments that Africa needs in order to create a more stable future for the continent’s population.

— The writer is Advisor and Kenya’s Special Envoy for Maritime and Blue Economy, Executive Office of the President