Green shipping corridors: what does the Clydebank Declaration propose?

The transition to a cleaner and more sustainable maritime sector requires joint action and many commitments. Transforming ships and infrastructure to achieve a more efficient system and aligning the sector with the goals of the Paris Agreement is no longer an option but an obligation. To encourage this change and support the development of clean fuels and solutions, several countries signed the Clydebank Declaration during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to promote the creation of green shipping corridors.

Posted on 01.07.2022
The Clydebank Declaration aims to create green shipping corridors, free of greenhouse gas emissions, between two or more ports around the world. (GettyImages)

The Clydebank Declaration is a set of intentions to promote the creation of green shipping corridors through cooperation between countries, on the one hand, and between countries and the different actors in the sector, on the other. Its main objective is to reduce the environmental impact of maritime activities worldwide. 

And how does it intend to achieve this? By encouraging the creation of green shipping corridors, free of greenhouse gas emissions, between two or more ports around the world. So far, a total of 22 countries have signed up to the declaration. 

The reason why is becoming increasingly clear: according to the IMO's 'Fourth Greenhouse Gas Study', the sector emitted more than one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other polluting gases in 2018, and all indications are that this will continue to rise if no action is taken. This is despite the fact that between 2008 and 2018 absolute greenhouse gas emissions in international shipping decreased by around 7% while maritime traffic grew by 40%. This represents 2% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, there has been a clear improvement in the carbon intensity of shipping (carbon emissions per unit of transport, in t x mile), which in 2018 was approximately 30% lower than in 2008. However, these energy improvements will not be sufficient to achieve IMO's target of reducing absolute emissions by 50% in 2050 without the development of zero emission technologies.

The conclusions of other recent documents, such as the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also call for accelerating decarbonisation. In this case, it states that a 1.5°C rise in average temperatures compared to the 19th century is already inevitable over the next two decades. If emissions continue to increase, temperatures could rise by as much as 4.5°C by 2100.

Many of the consequences of climate change will be noticeable in the seas. According to the IPCC report, the Arctic and the Mediterranean will be among the most affected regions. Therefore, there is an increasing interest in starting to find solutions from the marine sector itself.

The main objective of the Clydebank Declaration is to establish at least six green corridors between two or more ports by the middle of this century and to increase this number over the next few years

Six corridors by the middle of this century 

The main objective of the Clydebank Declaration (a non-binding declaration of intent) is to establish at least six green corridors between two or more ports by the middle of this century and to increase this number over the next few years. 

For operators, participation is voluntary, and it is not mandatory for all vessels to be zero-emission in order to transit a green corridor. A willingness to evaluate the objectives achieved in 2025 was also stipulated in writing. 

In order to create these more sustainable corridors, signatory countries are expected to encourage the creation of partnerships between states, ports, companies and all operators along the value chain. This is the only way to accelerate decarbonisation in the sector. 

To date, 22 countries around the world have signed the Clydebank Declaration. (COP26)

"The Clydebank Declaration proposes to facilitate the establishment of alliances in which the different agents involved in this process participate," the Spanish Shipping Association (ANAVE) points out. "Initiatives such as this serve to raise awareness and involve all the actors involved and help speed up the process."

The challenges, also at a technical level

In this context, cooperation and support for the most pioneering initiatives in the use of renewable technologies is essential. "Shipping companies are well aware that it is necessary and urgent to evolve towards carbon-neutral maritime transport, something that can only be achieved with the development of a new generation of technologies and fuels that do not exist today," ANAVE said.

According to the association's spokespersons, batteries or fuel cells for propulsion on very short routes could be a solution for the establishment of a first green corridor in a few years. In addition, liquefied natural gas makes it possible to eliminate pollutant gas emissions already today. And, when the supply is available, biofuels could help reduce the carbon footprint. 

"There are also various energy efficiency measures that companies have been implementing for many years now," they explain. "These help to reduce emissions and, not least, fuel consumption, one of the main cost items for shipping companies.”

However, as ANAVE points out, once new solutions are developed, even greater challenges will arise: generating enough renewable energy to power ships; creating a new land-based infrastructure for the manufacture, supply and handling of these fuels; and developing completely new training programmes and safety procedures, for example.

"An enormous task for an industry that is almost exclusively dependent on fossil fuels and mostly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises with no experience in technology development," they conclude.

22 candidates to promote green corridors

To date, 22 countries around the world have signed the Clydebank Declaration. The list includes Australia, the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and many European countries, including Spain. There are also Morocco, Costa Rica and Chile, the only representatives from the African continent and Latin America. 

"Many are missing in this declaration," ANAVE points out. "Maritime transport is an international sector, which must be regulated at a global level by the IMO [International Maritime Organisation]. The more states involved in the process of decarbonisation, the sooner the objective will be achieved.”

However, the plan to create these green corridors is not the only one that seeks to accelerate the development of new technologies and fuels that are more environmentally responsible. Another example, according to ANAVE, is that promoted by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).  

"This organisation has proposed the creation of an R&D Fund endowed with 5,000 million dollars and financed by the shipping companies through a mandatory contribution for each tonne of fuel consumed by the ships," they explain. "And there are other initiatives to the same end. Each of them will do their bit to achieve this goal.”

Want to know more?

España firma la Declaración de Clydebank para la creación de corredores marítimos ‘verdes’

The Next Wave: Green Corridors

Clydebank declaration for green shipping corridors