The marine and coastal environment provides many functions and services which are essential to human wellbeing; for example, food including fish and shellfish, atmospheric and climate regulation, nutrient cycling, pharmaceutical compounds derived from marine algae and invertebrates, flood attenuation, filtering of organic waste and so on [UNEP, 2006]. However, this environment is also under increasing pressure, in part from the multitude of uses it supports.
Maritime navigation and navigation-related infrastructure are also vital to economic well-being, yet these activities can contribute to the pressures on marine ecosystems. Maritime navigation developments and activities are planned, regulated, managed and operated by a wide variety of different players.
Seaborne trade has doubled from 1988 to 2007; the trend accelerated since 2002. Since the last quarter of 2008, the economic- financial crisis has significantly impacted the world trade and consequently, seaborne trade growth. The prospects are now uncertain, but one can expect that the mid-term trend will be positive again.
It is clear that understanding and assessing the sustainability of navigation in the maritime environment therefore requires consideration of a wide range of activities and many environmental, social and economic factors.
Maritime transportation, the vehicle of a large part of the worldwide fluxes of goods is at the heart of the globalisation phenomenon. The fortunes of the global maritime transportation sector are intimately interlinked with that of the global economy, its ups and its downs. Products these days are often assembled with the help of supply chains spanning the world. Even simple products can travel around the world when e.g. a particular step in the chain involves manual labour that is sourced from a particular country where this is relatively inexpensive. Emerging economies are growing fast on the basis of their ability to supply large quantities of their goods at competitive prices on the world market. The exploitation of competitive advantage can thus result in increasing flows of goods and an increased interdependence of economies.
In all this, the maritime transportation sector is a key player and the fact that more goods seem to undergo more and more transport is in itself seen as unsustainable by a part of the public.
Why Do We Say 'A Bird's Eye View'?
Any guidance on sustainable maritime navigation will necessarily cover a broad range of topics. In many cases, a great deal of detailed information already exists at the level of a particular activity or a particular environmental interest. However, relatively little guidance exists on how such activities and impacts interact - and without this type of awareness it can be difficult to maximise opportunities, minimise adverse impacts and hence contribute to sustainability in the maritime environment.
This guidance document provides a high-level overview of a range of activities, their implications and potential interactions. It does not go into detail. Rather it is intended to help key players broaden their understanding of the environmental and social as well as economic consequences of commercial navigation activities in the maritime environment. By providing such a bird's eye view, the report aims to enable these actors to recognise and take other interests and factors into account - thus giving them an opportunity to contribute to effective, sustainable operation, management and development. The intended audience for this guidance document includes: