The Nonexistence of Sustainability in International Maritime Shipping: Issues For Consideration

  •  Chad McGuire    
  •  Helen Perivier    


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There is an ongoing practice in the international shipping community that impacts fundamental notions of sustainability as defined in the peer-reviewed literature (WCED, 1987; Gladwin, Kennelly & Krause, 1995; McManus, 1996, Naess, 2003; McGregor, 2004). The practice is based in discounting the true costs of maritime shipping through a system of open registries. By engaging in such practices, there is an inherent failure by the international community to internalize the true costs (environmental, social, labor, etc.) associated with shipping. The result is a practice that artificially keeps the international costs of maritime shipping low at the expense of environmental and labor concerns. This paper will identify the methods by which this generalized unsustainable practice is carried out, and link the practices to environmental policy failures at both domestic and international scales. While the main purpose of the paper is to serve as a scoping piece to identify the unsustainable practices of the international maritime industry, some general insights are also offered to suggest research directions that may aid in ensuring our global maritime shipping industry better internalizes generally accepted principles of sustainability. Work beyond this paper should focus on in-depth analyses and case studies to further develop the general principles discussed herein.

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