Sixteen global firms and two non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) have announced an 18-month action plan to advance sustainability in the shipping industry.
Food producer Cargill's shipping arm is one of the first to test the feasiblity of a US$1 million kite to help transport its goods globally, but the company said financing development of technologies for sustainable shipping is fraught with challenges.
"At the moment in the shipping industry, the owner is taking all the risk of new technology. We're looking at sharing that risk between owners and charterers, banks, insurers," environment and compliance manager of Cargill Ocean Transportation Jonathan Stoneley said.
"Financing and shipping tends to be conservative and traditional. And it really looks at only buying the assets."
Because of this, Cargill is partnering other leaders in finance, insurance and shipping to develop new approaches for financing sustainable ships.
This includes coming up with at least one new financial model that will reward sustainable performance by September next year.
Director of change strategies at Forum for the Future Stephanie Draper said, "It might be something like a retrofit fund. It might be able to bring together a special company that actually shares the risk between the banker, the ship owner and the operator."
"We're also looking at ways technology providers can guarantee the savings that their technology are going to provide," she added.
Besides Cargill, cargo shipping giant Maersk Line is also looking into sustainable shipping.
The company will put the world's largest ship to sail, with 20 such ships to be in use by 2015, replacing older and less energy efficient vessels.
Eskild Lund Sorensen, environmental manager of sustainability at Maersk Line, said, "We're looking at increased pressure on resources in general and iron is something that we know will be put on pressure in future.
"With the high energy prices as well as that will make building new ships even more expensive because there is a correlation between the prices for iron and the prices for energy."
These ships belonging to Maersk will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent.
They will ply the Asia Europe route, which is expected to see demand increase by up to eight per cent in 2015.