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BRIEFNovember 22, 2023

Sustainable Development in Shipping and Ports

Maritime is critical for Global Trade and Development

Maritime transport is the backbone of global trade, as more than 80 percent of goods are transported by sea. Developing countries depend on shipping, accounting for around 55 percent of seaborne exports and 61 percent of imports. Ports are gateways for development, fostering economic growth and allowing countries to participate in trade. To build resilience in supply chains and fight climate change, maritime transport is crucial.

While deep-sea shipping has set course to reduce its own carbon emissions – around three percent of global greenhouse gases – climate change already takes its toll on ports and maritime chokepoints, putting global supply chains at risk. Resilient port infrastructure and enhanced digital solutions will protect ports against shocks and increase operational efficiency. Ships will not only run on zero-carbon fuels but will move fossil-free energy, like green hydrogen, around the globe. The production of emerging ship fuels will stimulate development opportunities across sectors, such as in renewable energy and heavy industry. 

Ships and ports help countries to trade, improve resilience and fight climate change
Ships and ports help countries to trade, improve resilience and fight climate change.

Photo: Shutterstock

How we go about it

To enable sustainable development in shipping and ports, the World Bank is working towards effective policies for maritime transport and scalable interventions in the maritime ecosystem, leveraging the organization’s technical expertise and products, focusing around three core areas:

Three focus areas

Three intertwined focus areas to enable sustainable development in global shipping and seaports.

Photo: Adobe Stock

Greening Ships and Ports

Maritime transport has a significant climate mitigation potential as it accounts for around three percent of global greenhouse gases. But shipping is considered a harder-to-abate sector because ocean-going ships navigate over long distances and have limited options to electrify fleets. Hydrogen-based fuels, such as green ammonia and methanol, are the main candidates to decarbonize the industry. Many of our client countries have high potential to produce green ship fuels. The World Bank assists client countries, especially for Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to develop global policy, which can reduce the sector’s carbon footprint in an equitable and inclusive way.

Digitalizing Operations

Shipboard efficiency is closely tied to shoreside port terminal operations, and the interface between vessels and ports is increasingly important. Digital solutions are a key tool for optimizing port calls, reducing costs and lowering emissions. 

As ports digitize more operations, the risks of cyberattacks increase. Protecting critical maritime infrastructure from digital threats is important to sustain efficient trade.

Improving Efficiency

The World Bank’s client countries depend on low-cost maritime transport. Ports play a critical role in reducing shipping costs and building supply chain resilience, which are critical for safeguarding food security. Operational efficiency is often considered a straightforward way  to improve existing infrastructure and optimize vessel operation with positive cost and climate impacts. The Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) is the global benchmark for container port efficiency, published annually by the World Bank and S&P Global.

  At the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where countries develop policy for global shipping.

At the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where countries develop policy for global shipping.

Photo: Rico Salgmann