Shipowners aspire to use sustainable vessels

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Shipowners want sustainable operations

Seagoing vessels are becoming more energy efficient as every new vessel is built. Sources of renewable energy such as wind and solar energy will be used by the shipping industry in the near future, and renewable shore power is set to replace diesel generators. With emissions free shipping as the ultimate goal, the starting point is, and will continue to be, a strong economic position for Dutch shipowners. Sustainable operations cannot be achieved without the maritime sector taking a stand in the global dialogue on plastic pollution of waterways and oceans. This all leads us to the ‘triple A’ framework for Dutch shipowners: 

Adjusting our way of sailing with 
Adapted vessels that use
Alternative fuels

Maritime future

KVNR - Nick Lurkin - Klimaat en Milieu - web


Nick Lurkin
Climate and Environment

+31 10 2176 275

KVNR - Marjolein van Noort - Financiering, Handel en Europese zaken - web


Marjolein van Noort
EU Public Affairs

+31 6 2392 4513

Sustainable ships

The Royal Association of Netherlands Shipowners (KVNR) represents its member shipowners based in the Netherlands. The KVNR focuses on politics, government, the maritime cluster and society – all from a shipowners’ perspective. On the one hand, shipowners want to be more innovative and sustainable. On the other, maritime transport must be economically attractive.

sdgonlineSDG 7 Focus on affordable and clean energy. SDG 9 Focus op industry, innovation and infrastructure. SDG 14: Focus on life below water.Source: MARIN

The balance between reaching a strong global position and protecting the environment is part of shipowners’ business operations. By far the largest share of goods are transported over sea. The interaction between smart infrastructure and a forward-looking shipping sector contributes to a more sustainable use of ports, waterways and oceans. These facts considered, the KVNR’s vision of climate and environment can be summarised as follows:


The UN International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) climate agreement of 13 April 2018 illustrates the need of the shipping sector to significantly mitigate its impact on the climate and lead by example.

The shipping sector agreed to an absolute reduction of CO2 emissions of at least 50 percent in 2050 compared to the levels of 2008. It also agreed that it would push back greenhouse gas emissions to zero as fast as possible. Dutch shipowners are thrilled to have an agreement that is comparable to the Paris agreement. Their goal is even more ambitious: a reduction of greenhouse gases of at least 70 percent in 2050 compared to the levels of 2008 is their target.

Seagoing vessels are operational for decades and are decommissioned at the end of their life. Approximately 95% of materials are recycled in this process. The shipping sector must comply with international regulations, and this includes the ship recycling industry and the safe and sustainable process of decommissioning vessels. Speeding up the ratification of the Hong Kong treaty will contribute significantly to a global level playing field and will enhance the establishment of higher standards. Dutch shipowners make use of their influence to create and maintain clean and healthy seas, air and living conditions. We have taken the first steps towards a cleaner future, but we’re not there yet. Three of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are our framework and are specifically relevant to the shipping sector:

SDG 7 Focus on affordable and clean energy.
SDG 9 Focus on industry, innovation and infrastructure.
SDG 14 Focus on life below water.

Becoming more sustainable with every step: three pillars

To ensure that we can continue our progress each and every year we have defined three pillars of success. The starting points are that a) every new vessel is much cleaner and more energy efficient than its predecessor, b) existing vessels have regular refits and c) regulation facilitates greater sustainability in order to reach the goal of emissions-free sailing. A regulatory level playing field is key for internationally operating shipowners. Training of crews and awareness of shipowners is crucial to reach these three pillars. Creating and maintaining an open interaction between ports and shipowners is high on the agenda of the KVNR to optimise infrastructure. 

schoononlineIn 2050 a large part of the Dutch fleet will be emissions-free to both water and air. Dutch shipowners will sail the seas and oceans in a sustainable manner and focus on the 100% clean transport of cargo and passengers. Source: MARIN


Shipping is the most sustainable way of transporting goods, however the way in which we use vessels can be more energy efficient. Training and guidance of crew members can positively change on-board behaviour and contribute to economic and environmental gains. One of the examples is slow steaming. Optimisation of the entire value chain from port to port is needed so ships can sail ‘just in time’. Where water and quay meet optimal processes create a more effective flow and therefore less emissions. The maritime sector flourishes only when there are enough strong links present. Those links include shipowners, shipbuilders, suppliers, knowledge institutes, ports, shippers and financiers. The KVNR enhances an ambitious dialogue with its supply chain partners to stimulate efficient processes in ports by embracing innovation. New ship designs are important as well, for all kinds of boats and in particular workboats.


Seagoing vessels age well. That can be seen as sustainable, but it also means that existing vessels are less flexible to sustainable innovations. For example, major refits can only be carried out whilst in dry dock. The shipowners that are part of the KVNR do their utmost to modify their fleet during its lifetime and with that strengthen their ‘license to operate’. 

In addition to major refits, minor adjustments also contribute to reduced emissions. To this end, data collection is very important to understand what changes are effective. The KVNR pro-actively seeks the cooperation with ports, shippers and governments to reward the more sustainable vessels and to stimulate the use of those ships. This also includes alternative business models to reshape the maritime industry.

A dialogue between shipowners, governments and financiers about ownership, beneficial rights and use of alternative materials is very helpful. Shipowners are open to explore the options of recycling materials by integrating the philosophy of circular economy when building new vessels and to make use of alternative materials when building new ships. Last but not least, shipowners do what they can to mitigate their impact on their environment below and above water.


Knowledge institutes like TNO and MARIN show the path to development for shipowners. They do this in close cooperation with parties in the fuel industry and with maritime suppliers. Research into the possibilities of different propulsion technologies and/or alternative fuels is performed to see how emissions of greenhouse gases can be reduced. Furthermore, pilot projects are set up together with shipowners. New propulsion systems and alternative fuels create a clean and sustainable shipping sector that is able to reach its 2050 targets.

An infrastructure that facilitates new energy carriers at key places in Dutch and foreign ports is of great importance. To make sure that new vessels adapt quickly to new technology, new (and, as much as possible, recycled) materials and new designs are introduced in cooperation with shipowners.


A cleaner shipping industry needs a climate triple A

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy will match the energy needs of the shipping sector in the near future. Renewable shore power will replace diesel generators while in port, and emissions free shipping is the ultimate goal. The starting point for Dutch shipowners is a solid economic position.

nieuwonlineA cleaner shipping sector is achievable with increased efficiency and implementation of technological solutions. To really turn the sector around a value chain approach is needed as well as ambitious and reliable government policy that stimulates innovation.

Operating in a sustainable manner cannot be done without the maritime sector taking a stand in the global dialogue on plastic pollution of waterways and oceans. This all leads us to the triple A framework of the Dutch shipowners: 

ADJUSTED SAILING - Further optimisation of existing resources in the maritime logistics chain is necessary. This concerns, among other things, the energy-efficient use of those seagoing vessels lacking technological adjustments. This requires a change in thinking of all parties in the logistics chain, such as ports, shippers and terminals.

ADAPTED VESSELS - Refitting existing vessels and pushing for technological sustainable developments when building new vessels is our second pillar. Innovative ship designs definitely contribute to this goal.

ALTERNATIVE FUELS, MATERIALS AND SHIP DESIGN - Shipowners are getting ready for alternative fuels and climate neutral propulsion to reach the ultimate target of ‘zero emissions shipping’. This calls for exploration and testing of new fuels that are currently barely used. We also cooperate towards innovative ship designs that make use of different and recycled materials. 

The climate triple A will be reality when all the relevant parties cooperate in the fields of international policy, finance and innovation:

Reliable long-term government policies supported by robust and risk-based monitoring in ports and at sea offer shipowners the confidence they need to embrace ‘green innovations’.

New business models form the base for investments and cooperation in the maritime sector that lead to a green fleet. Dedicated financial instruments such as international subsidies speed up the introduction of new technologies.

To set the pace towards a zero-emissions vessel, investment in innovation, pilot projects and cooperation with universities and knowledge institutes is crucial.

Read or download below the original Dutch publication of this page.