Yet the shipping industry, which carries around 90 percent of all world trade, is pursuing its own re-balancing story too. The last 15 years have seen a drop in oil spills (despite a massive increase in oil cargos), a general reduction in harmful gases such as nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, and an uptake in fuel-efficient ship design. That said, the search for perfect equilibrium continues. Shipping is today responsible for around 2.7 percent of all man-made greenhouse carbon emissions - a figure the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the industry's UN-backed standard setter - would like to see reduced by 20 percent come 2020 and 50 percent by 2050.
It is within this context that some of shipping's leading players have been beavering away together over the last 18 months. The mandate of the cross-industry Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI), which includes members such as Maersk Line, Lloyd's Register, Cargill, DNV, Unilever and WÃ¤rtsilÃ¤, is to "contribute to - and thrive - in a sustainable future". The initial output of their efforts appears in a progress report entitled "˜A case for more action', which spotlights the role that technology will play in greening the world of shipping. The clearest example centres on energy efficiency, one of the central themes on SSI's agenda. Leading ship owners are already seeing gains through waste heat recovery systems, for example, which use captured heat and pressure in the exhaust gas to drive on-board electrical generators. The addition of advanced pumps and valves, as well as scrubber technology on the exhaust, is also shown to cut energy and fuel use.
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