Creating a sustainable shipping industry roadmap

In this article, we speak to the team at the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, to better understand our industry’s current environmental challenges and learn about SSI’s approach to delivering practical solutions. 

Founded in 2010 by Forum for the Future, WWF and several industry stakeholders, SSI is one of the leading bodies working to develop a long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions in our industry. In 2016, the group developed a comprehensive sustainability roadmap and updated it in 2020.  


The issue: setting goals and achieving a vision  


We know that the industry has a broad goal to reduce carbon emissions in the coming years. The IMO has set a target to reduce CO2 emissions internationally by at least 40 per cent by 2030, and 70 per cent by 2050. But how do we work towards this in reality? The SSI’s Roadmap to a Sustainable Shipping Industry provides a comprehensive set of pathways with milestones to be achieved along the way. 

The aim of the roadmap is to explore the broad number of ways operations could change in the coming decades and generate a conversation about how the supply chain can evolve to meet the targets.  

Each vision area is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasising the important role of shipping’s sustainability journey to the achievement of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. There are six key focus areas including: oceans, communities, people, transparency, finance and energy. 

In considering each area, members of our industry can hold themselves to account through a regular review of progress against these milestones. 




The objective for oceans is to establish a system of global ocean governance in order to create a resilient and sustainable blue economy, balancing access to our oceans with conservation of marine resources and space. Enforced marine spatial planning and marine protection is a key component.  

2020s milestones  

  • Progressive increase in adoption of sustainable ocean policy and blue economy principles, and development of a roadmap to improve global ocean governance 
  • Development of standardised tools, resources and audits for marine spatial planning for regional and national waters, with research and pilot projects documenting good practice 

2030s milestones  

  • Strengthening of shipping-related ocean governance, with improved coordination on ocean impacts and issues and enforcement of laws and regulations 
  • Progressive improvements in marine spatial planning and increase in use of performance standards for marine protected areas 

2040s milestones  

  • Formation of an overarching global governance body all shipping-related ocean industries 
  • High seas and coastal marine protected areas are established and enforced, and marine spatial plans put in place




When it comes to communities, SSI seeks to promote good port governance, transparency and accountability. This should engage and benefit the port as well as coastal and indigenous communities that are impacted by shipping activities. In building sustainable port infrastructure, water and air quality is improved, in turn enhancing the natural environment for those living in the area.  

2020s milestones 

  • Development of standards for the planning, design and development of new port facilities, created in consultation with local communities  
  • Mapping of shipping routes to ensure maritime activities don’t negatively impact communities, natural habitats and wildlife  
  • Implementation of clean port programs delivered through an expanding global coalition of ports  
  • Development of a circular economy ecosystem to better manage all phases of a ship’s lifecycles from design through to end of life and recycling  

2030s milestones 

  • Ensure local communities are represented in port governance  
  • Implementation of sustainability performance reporting mechanisms  
  • Elimination of corruption and piracy, achieved through community collaboration  
  • Further implementation of clean ports programs to reduce fatalities that occur as a result of poor air quality  
  • Facilitation of circular port and shipyard infrastructure that supports the repair, reuse and recycling of ships and their components 




Improved labour and human rights standards are required to ensure people have safe and secure living and working conditions as well as fair wages. The maritime community should take a best practice approach to employee development to attract and retain good people. This means embracing diversity and ensuring working environments and cultures are inclusive.  

2020s milestones 

  • Improved international labour and human rights regulations to be increasingly ratified  
  • Development of industry best practice codes of conduct and contractual terms across the shipping lifecycle 
  • Creation of a framework for reporting on fatalities and their causes to improve processes on ships, in ship building and recycling yards  
  • Enhanced training and career development support for seafarers including preparation for work on future autonomous ships  
  • Access to union representation for all workers onboard and onshore 
  • Implementation of best practice programs to support diversity, equality and inclusivity  

2030s milestones 

  • Translation of international and human rights regulation into regional and national law 
  • Public disclosure of human rights issues across the shipping lifecycle 
  • Wide use of fatality and safety reporting framework  
  • Global recognition of minimum competence qualifications and career development paths onboard and offshore  
  • Enforcement of internal policies aligned with the IMO minimum standards to eliminate discrimination, harassment and bullying  
  • Equality for all workers regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race or sexual orientation  

2040s milestones 

  • Equal ranking of onboard shipping careers with shore-based roles in terms of job satisfaction, career development, mental health and wellbeing 




To enhance transparency SSI suggests monitoring sustainability performance to ensure continuous improvements are made through frameworks and ratings schemes that go beyond minimum compliance. Industry players must be held to account through transparency of the decision-making process.  

2020s milestones 

  • Implementation of strong financial, legal and regulatory pressure for shipowners to report on sustainability performance  
  • Transparency throughout the ship lifecycle to increase reuse and recycling of ship equipment and components  
  • Increase the availability of sustainability rating schemes for shipowners to manage issues throughout a ship’s lifecycle  
  • Enhanced technological innovation used to optimise supply chain sustainability, transparency and accountability  
  • Measurement of sustainability performance data measured against agreed international standards to be publicly disclosed  

2030s milestones 

  • Globally agreed minimum sustainability performance indicators with data published for use in business decisions  
  • Increased sustainability performance expectations for ship designers, builders, recyclers and equipment manufacturers  
  • Use of sustainability rating schemes by cargo owners and shipping finance and insurance companies  
  • Auditing and validation of sustainability performance data 




Long-term financial solutions are a key component in the update of innovation, design and operational efficiencies that improve sustainability. The aim is to reward high sustainability though preferential access to capital and insurance. Monetary value should also be assigned to environmental resources to promote responsible use and reduce adverse impact.  

2020s milestones 

  • Incentivisation for financial stakeholder to increase public reporting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance 
  • Sustainable shipping finance tools should address ESG performance indicators including sustainably linked loans, green bonds and technology investments  
  • Disclosure of natural capital accounting and reporting across the industry  
  • Pilot methodologies to be developed to demonstrate the monetary value of goods and services generated by marine ecosystems  

2030s milestones 

  • Normalisation of sustainability and ESG reporting that is factored into financial decisions 
  • Sustainable shipping finance tools to become mainstream in the shipping sector 
  • Implementation of a global methodology for ecosystem valuation adopted and factored into marine spatial planning negotiations and decision-making  

2040s milestones  

  • Development of sustainability performance targets on an ongoing basis in line with global climate ambitions 




The industry should consistently be working towards using zero-carbon energy sources in order to work towards a zero-emission shipping sector and minimise environmental and biodiversity impacts. This means aligning with global climate targets and creating improvements in energy efficiency across the supply chain, with the long-term goal of transitioning to renewable and zero-carbon fuels and technology.  

 2020s milestones

  • Reduce GHG emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 compared to 2008 
  • Implement short and mid-term measures for GHG emissions reductions  
  • Introduce operational efficiency measures and business models for zero-carbon shipping  
  • Scaling up of research, development and production of zero or lowcarbon fuels  
  • Increase collaboration between the maritime and energy sectors to increase the availability of zero or low carbon fuels to speed up the transition  

2030s milestones 

  • Reduce GHG emissions by 90 per cent by 2040 compared to 2008 
  • Implement regulations incentivising the uptake of zero or low-carbon fuels  
  • Ensure technical and operational energy efficiency measures are in place globally  
  • Commercial availability and wide adoption of zero-emissions vessels created through new builds and sustainability retrofits  

2040s milestones 

  • Successfully reduce GHG emissions to zero by 2050


Creating lasting change 


The SSI team continues to review and develop the roadmap in line as the industry overcomes global challenges and accepts the need for increased scrutiny and higher performance expectations in order to meet and exceed sustainability, human and climate-related targets. Increasing sustainability regulations and business pressure are already driving change, but as the technology in our industry improves, the milestones set out in the roadmap are achievable and will help us to evolve to efficiency shipping practices globally.  

RightShip is a proud member of SSI and its sustainability roadmap. To learn more about SSI or contribute to the plan, visit the website.