According to UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2023 , the maritime industry needs to take action and focus on seven specific areas with policy as it looks toward the future.
#1 Ensure food and energy security
• Grain and fertilizer exports need to be ensured, such as through the Black Sea Initiative and the Memorandum of Understanding on trade facilitation of food and fertilizers from the Russian Federation.
• The international community should support investments in transport infrastructure for developing countries to ensure sustainable and resilient food and energy security.
#2 Support investment in the renewal of the global ageing fleet
• To encourage investment in ship carrying capacity, national and international regulations must minimize uncertainty that prevents shipowners’ timely investment in new and modern vessels.
• Monitor trends in ship finance for both fleet renewal and green investment, and scale up financing and investment levels. Monitor developments in shipbuilding yard capacity.
• Share information, allow access to relevant data and conduct research to improve understanding of fleet renewal and capacity expansion challenges.
• Upgrade skill sets and ensure that crew receive adequate training in connection with the latest technologies and the use of alternative fuels and related shipboard systems.
#3 Facilitate the fuel transition and an equitable decarbonization process
• Clear targets for low and zero-carbon fuels in shipping are vital to attract private sector investment and address climate change, as set out in the Paris Agreement. A strong regulatory framework aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is crucial for protecting the environment.
• International regulations should enable a level playing field and promote measures to lower the cost or the price gap between alternative and conventional marine fuels. Economic measures such as a levy or a carbon / GHG price can support the energy transition and incentivize investment in alternative fuels and green technologies for ships.
• The regulatory framework must ensure a just and equitable transition. Economic measures such as a carbon levy can generate funds to help developing countries reduce maritime logistics costs, enhance their climate resilience and seize energy-related business opportunities.
• Industry and multilateral institutions should invest in sustainable port facilities, clean energy marine hubs and green shipping corridors. Close collaboration among stakeholders can also ensure a sufficient supply of low-carbon alternative fuels.
#4 Assess readiness, maturity and safety of alternative fuels and impacts of policy measures on developing countries
• The readiness and availability of alternative fuels and vessel designs must be assessed, along with their regulatory and safety maturity levels.
• Continue and regularly update the assessments of the impacts of the decarbonization of international shipping on the most vulnerable economies, which often face higher freight rates and heavily rely on maritime transport for trade and economic development.
#5 Improve understanding of alternative fuel costs, monitor their implications for freight costs and surcharges and set up a mechanism to guide the setting of these costs
• Given the volatility of freight markets and uncertain demand and supply associated with the energy transition in shipping, industry and policymakers need to invest in improving research and analysis for better understanding of freight market trends associated with the fuel transition in shipping.
• Monitor trends in alternative fuel prices and surcharges and improve understanding of issues at stake. Insights gained will inform the setting of freight rates and surcharges and help ensure transparent and competitive freight markets.
#6 Reform and invest in port efficiency and performance
• Ports can boost efficiency through digitalization, trade facilitation and sustainable infrastructure. Stakeholder collaboration strengthens port performance and resilience.
• Port performance metrics inform decision-making and foster transparency. Governments should encourage public–private collaboration in policy reforms to enhance port infrastructure, operations and facilitate exports, imports and transit at ports. Simplifying customs processes is proven to increase sector efficiency.
#7 Promote the use of electronic trade documents and related regulatory reform
• Promoting the use of electronic trade documents, including electronic bills of lading, will lead to faster transactions, lower costs and reduce costly delays. A suitable legal framework needs to be in place to make it easier to use electronic alternatives to traditional paper documentation, in particular to the negotiable bill of lading.
• Policymakers should take note of recent regulatory developments such as those in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to ensure the full legal recognition of electronic bills of lading as equivalent to traditional paper documents and, where necessary, develop relevant national legislation.
• With greater electronic interactions there are potentially growing cyber risks, which need to be effectively managed.
• UNCITRAL Working Group VI is developing a legal instrument for negotiable multimodal transport documents. All stakeholders are encouraged to actively participate in this work so the instrument will be both fit for purpose and commercially acceptable, including from the perspective of small traders in developing countries.