The shipping industry and sustainable fuel alternatives

The shipping industry is responsible for transporting approximately 52% of marine commerce across the world. However, the combustion engines which power these cargo ships impact the planet negatively by releasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

This is a problem as the shipping industry is one of the most important aspects of trade and livelihood for those countries that rely heavily on imports. With the industry still serving as the foundation of the UK’s prosperity, solutions to transition the industry toward more sustainable measures inline with the environment are well underway.

Photo by Martin Damboldt on

As well as offering a more environmentally friendly solution, looking at the different ways the shipping industry can power its ships also presents cost-effective solutions with bigger ships holding more cargo being able to be powered with less expensive fuel sources is a win win for most corporations involved. Below is a list of different fuel alternatives that may help sustain the shipping industry on a greener course:


  • Doesn’t produce carbon emissions.
  • Requires more storage and toxic for human and aquatic life.


  • Doesn’t produce carbon emissions.
  • Needs to be stored at -253 degree Celsius or -423 Fahrenheit and potentially explosive.

Liquefied natural gas

  • Less carbon emissions produce and already used on some ships.
  • Still a fossil fuel so not carbon neutral.


  • Made from vegetable oils and compatible with many ships.
  • Less energy dense and more expensive than regular oil.


  • Can be made cleanly and already used in some ships.
  • Less energy dense and expensive.


  • Doesn’t produce carbon emissions, extremely energy dense and is already used in some ships.
  • Possible presents several lethal issues if things start to fail.

As you can see, there are a number of alternatives which present themselves as better alternatives than using standard oil. However, this transition is no easy task and holds its own set of complex issues. With the timescale to make these changes slowly dwindling, action is crucial in these next few decades. With multiple industries, including the shipping industry, starting to change to more sustainable practices, the impact of climate change can only be minimised by reducing the harmful practices of the modern world which have become too familiar to us all. Therefore, advocating industries such as fast fashion, meat production and transport to transition toward sustainable practices will ultimately have the biggest impact in slowing the consequences of our rapidly changing climate.


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