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Sweden is cleaning up its marine transport…and it\’s going well

How Sweden is Changing Marine Transport



With the latest report published by the OECD, Sweden has almost booked the journey to the future – as a driver for environmentally-friendly maritime transport. The content of the report is aimed at the national efforts to reduce carbon emissions from seaports – Sweden is pushing the snaps further than the other countries. 

The report examines the factors that have put Sweden in the lead position in reducing carbon dioxide emissions in shipping and how other countries could learn from this success story.

It describes the country\’s efforts to \’\’decolonize\’\’ its shipping industry and highlight remaining challenges and potential solutions to achieve zero-carbon shipping. An interesting target, considering another report by the European Commission that showed that marine transport, as a whole, emits around 1000 million tonnes of CO2 annually and is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Sweden\’s successful efforts have been given the all-honourable stamp from the International Transport Forum (ITF), a transport policy group consisting of OECD country members, and in a time of increased interest in creating strong regulation ranks to significantly reduce carbon footprint for international shipping.

To understand these carbon dioxide measurements, we must first look into Sweden\’s ship statistics:

Since 1975, the proportion of Swedish ships has decreased from 1.3 per cent to 0.6 per cent and the number of Swedish ships has been relatively unchanged since the mid-1980s. At year-end Sweden had 451 Swedish flagged vessels in size category \’\’100 gross tonnes or greater\’\’. However, Swedish companies had 687 vessels with a combined tonnage of 9.4 million tonnes. Operating tonnage, mainly in the tanker fleet, increased by tumbling of tonnage from other countries and the proportion of foreign registered vessels in the Swedish fleet amounted to 34 percent.

This ITF-published report examines the factors that have put Sweden in the lead for the decommissioning of maritime transport and examines how other countries can learn from this success story. It describes Sweden\’s efforts to decolonize its shipping industry, as well as throw light on remaining challenges and potential measures to achieve zero-carbon shipping.

The analysis is of particular relevance in the light of proposals for developing national action plans for decommissioning of maritime transport in connection with the International Maritime Organization\’s (IMO) initial greenhouse gas strategy.

As such, the presented analysis will be used not only for decision makers in Sweden but also for decision makers in other countries trying to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from shipping in general. 

The Swedish shipping industry has been very active in carbon dioxide transport. Its industry organization has formulated a target for zero-carbon shipping in 2050 and various Swedish shipping companies are pioneers in the field of carbon dioxide shipping.

This proactive approach in Sweden is driven by an effective partnership between responsible shipping companies and shippers; most Swedish shipping companies are family owned and most of the shipping families are traditionally located around the coast.



The Swedish shipowners\’ interest in sustainability and innovation has been encouraged by major Swedish carriers, such as the energy company Preem, which focuses on green supply chains. This has resulted in partnerships between shippers and shipping companies that eliminate obstacles that have traditionally hindered progress in greening shipping.

In particular, some relievers want to commit long-term charters with the new hydrocarbons as the main determinant.

Sweden\’s progress can also be explained by stakeholder cooperation, financial support and regulation. An example of cooperation with stakeholders has been the \”Zero Vision Tool\”, a platform for cooperation between the shipping industry, government and research team, to solve bottlenecks for green maritime transport through specific pilot projects. This tool has made it possible to test possible solutions and share results with all relevant stakeholders, not only in Sweden but also in the Baltic region. Certain financial instruments, including EU aid and the Norwegian NOx Fund, have also helped shipowners to invest in expensive but coal-subsidized vessels.

Stricter rules for sulfur emissions, such as emissions control requirements, have further stimulated demand for LNG-powered vessels that reduce sulfur emissions and, to some extent, carbon dioxide emissions. The business of coal roads is not always very clear. Shipowners wonder if they will be able to recover the extra costs they have to incur. Current financial framework does not assess the external benefits of carbon dioxide emissions and sometimes applies a risk premium to unknown or untested technology.

Despite many advances, the reduction of carbon dioxide in shipping is still at an early stage. More is needed if the sector wants to reach its target of zero-carbon shipping by 2050. The big challenge is how to estimate current initiatives and get more financial and political support, both nationally and globally.

Daniel Vice – Evolvera; always changing, always evolving

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