COP26 A climate crisis and a summit for change: How can the right data help?

A climate crisis and a summit for change: How can the right data help?

The COP26 climate summit is coming up – where climate activists from across the world will meet, and Windward is proud to participate this year. And while climate conferences are key for constructive dialogue, they are in no way enough. On this topic, Greta Thunberg recently said that the targets for reaching net-zero are a good start but won’t lead to real change if people continue to look for loopholes.

“Blah, blah, blah. Net-zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. Words that sound great but so far have not led to action.” She said in a speech back in September. The shipping industry has been talking about net-zero for a long time, but little has been done between unclear targets and regulations.

The industry stakeholders who have taken it upon themselves to decrease their carbon footprint are against no small task. The majority of decarbonization market approaches offer to either:

  • Rank vessels based on their technical specifications
  • Collect limited dynamic data from a single fleet
  • Estimate carbon emissions retroactively based on theoretical vessel performance data

While these steps are important, they don’t bring us close enough to where the industry needs to be.

If shipping players choose a single system to rank vessels based on their specs, they will end up with static data that doesn’t account for the vessels’ dynamic nature and behavior. Collecting single-fleet data might provide better insights than ranking. Still, this data will only be relevant for the specific fleet measured rather than a scalable model for any fleet in question.

Lastly, retroactively estimating emissions based on theoretical vessel performance can result in inaccurate measurements since real-time events and conditions impact carbon emissions.

The truth is that until we have a scalable zero-emission fuel infrastructure, most shipping emissions will be unavoidable despite our best efforts. They are simply a result of choosing to ship the cargo from A to B. Roar Adland, Shipping Professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, estimates that 90% of avoidable emissions are driven by commercial decisions that happen long before the ship owner/operator gets involved. This is where, with the right solution, there is opportunity for carbon reductions.

How do you get there?

It comes down to proper visibility between all parties – charterer, owners, and ship management teams. They all only have a few pieces of the voyage puzzle, and even if one of them has the full picture – they need to share it with others in the value chain. For example, a vessel unnecessarily reaching full speed only to wait at port is easy to correct. But it doesn’t end there.

To have the vessel arrive at the ‘correct’ time means that everyone needs to be communicating properly on that agreed-upon arrival. For this to happen, vessel speed, power output, fuel consumption, and local weather all need to be accessible for everyone in the business to make an informed decision. If not, the supply chain will continue to have bottlenecks.

So a too-narrow approach that doesn’t address visibility will limit effective measures of managing CO2 emissions. On the other hand, harnessing the right technology and collaborating with each other to optimize commercial decisions and operations, will directly have a positive effect on environmental risk portfolios and carbon footprint reductions.

And the solution should be global enough to include the entire supply chain but accessible to all to enable autonomy and independent CO2 emissions measurement.

In September, Windward launched the Data for Decarbonization Program. Our hope is that by collecting data from all shipping players and standardizing it into one decision-supporting solution, stakeholders can know exactly where they stand and answer questions like: What is the optimal speed to evade predicted high congestion in a port? Does a fixed ETA result in more emissions? How does shortening the ballast distance impact my emissions?


With data visibility comes an opportunity for greater collaboration among all players to ensure that trade is accelerating and not hampering environmental sustainability goals. This would allow the industry to go beyond historical annual averages or even emissions per year by company or individual ship. We need to get to detailed emissions accounting per voyage by operational activity to enable those who are accountable for emissions to manage and reduce them.

As a maritime AI platform, our responsibility for decarbonization doesn’t end at COP26. Thanks to our best-in-class AI models and behavioral vessel data, we are bringing the same innovation that has helped global organizations mitigate compliance and security risk to help the shipping industry take on the most urgent climate crisis of our lifetime.