Future of Shipping

Increases in the demand for international shipping, coupled with growing environmental regulations, are forcing the industry to completely reassess how operations will be undertaken in the future. From the transportation of freight to cruise voyages, the shipping industry is beginning to embrace new innovations which could revolutionise ocean travel.

Sustainable Shipping

Targets agreed at the Paris Climate Summit have had an impact on many industries and shipping is no exception. The need to reduce carbon emissions and minimise the impact on the environment is a hot topic. Whilst there are yet to be globally recognised and accepted standards to address the issue, a charity set up by shipping industry leaders is embracing change.

Sustainable Shipping Initiative

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative aims to take practical steps in order to address and support the opportunities and challenges that are faced by the industry. It is actively encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices, along with providing a collaborative means of embracing other key issues such as changing markets and rising fuel costs.

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative hopes to encourage a long term vision that will prepare the industry for the future. In working together, rather than as individual companies, it will be easier to transform the industry, rather than reacting to the latest Government Policies and global initiatives as and when they are introduced.


In line with this focus on sustainability, the Japanese company Peace Boat has designed a cruise ship for the future. The vessel incorporates an extensive collection of environmentally sensitive features that are claimed to reduce energy use by 40% in comparison to standard cruise vessels.

The 55 tonne vessel with capacity for 5,000 passengers includes solar panelled sails, wind generators and a hybrid propulsion engine. Internally there is a closed loop water system with zero water discharge and a system for capturing and recycling energy. Waste products will also be converted into biofuels to help power the Ecoship.

A Design in Development

At present the design seems quite radical; a cross between a whale and a lion fish. Nature certainly has provided inspiration for the aerodynamic design and coating which emulates fish scales. The design may be quite removed from the cruise ships currently sailing the world’s oceans, but its potential has been recognised. Peace Boat has signed a contract to develop the Ecoship and be ready to launch in 2020.

Automated Shipping

The increasing costs of fuel have already been mentioned, so in addition to energy efficiency, shipping companies will also need to explore other means of increasing efficiencies and reducing costs. At present one of the major outgoings is on the crew.

Food, Beds and Medical Supplies for Crew

In addition to recruitment costs and wages, the crew need on-board facilities including catering, accommodation and medical resources in line with regulations on medical supplies for ships. The time that crew can spend at sea is also limited and there is always the risk of issues being caused by human error, especially in demanding environments or during lengthy shifts.

We are increasingly aware of automated technology and its potential in increasing efficiency. Many UK factories now include automated machinery, drones are being employed to undertake military exercises and the development of driverless cars is well documented. Rolls Royce is now working on a project with shipping designers, engineers, equipment manufacturers and universities to explore the potential of automated shipping.

The Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative aims to explore every angle of what would be involved and what needs to be in place to make automated shipping a viable concept. With 90% of the world’s trade being carried by sea, the impact of the results and future developments is likely to be monumental.

Until crew-less vessels become a reality, L.E.West remains a leading specialist in the provision of medical supplies for ships. For more information visit their website.