Steps to pioneer energy efficient vessels, make greater of use renewable energy, and design ships that can be reused or recycled are all today included in a new roadmap designed to achieve a "step-change" in the industry's carbon intensity through to 2040.
The document, a "Vision for 2040," will be published later today by think-tank Forum for the Future's Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) and has been endorsed by some of the shipping industry's biggest operators, including Maersk Line, Rio Tinto, Wärtsilä, and BP Shipping.
Each of the 15 signatories has agreed to communicate the work they are doing to curb their environmental impacts and open this up to SSI scrutiny as part of a biannual reporting process.
They also all acknowledge that work to cut emissions must begin immediately if the 2040 vision is to be achieved.
Emissions from the sector account for just over three per cent of the global total, but are predicted to rise by between 150 and 250 per cent over the next 40 years.
"The anticipated, radical changes in the external operating environment indicate an urgent need to reshape the way in which shipping business is conducted," the report says. "Our vision sets out our aspirations for 2040. But we cannot wait until 2040 to become sustainable; we need to act today."
While international negotiations have resulted in technical efficiency standards designed to lower emissions between 25 and 30 per cent by 2030 the SSI says further progress will require a global "beyond-compliance" standard and has tasked members to produce this new measure.
Other stakeholder groups in the SSI will work towards changing the way ships are designed and operated to incorporate more technologies that reduce energy consumption and cut emissions.
Reducing the life-cycle impact of ships will also be considered, while the SSI is aware a new set of financial mechanisms may be needed to ensure "the wider industry can get faster access to the technology available and that the most important new innovations are supported".
The SSI document comes in the same week the Committee on Climate Change is expected to publish its long-awaited review of UK shipping emissions.
The shipping industry remains largely divided on how best to tackle the sector's environmental impacts with some firms and national chambers of shipping calling for demanding new international regulations to curb emissions, and others arguing such measures would drive up shipping costs and damage the global economy.