A freighter approaches downtown Vancouver. Credit: edb3_16, iStock.

A freighter approaches downtown Vancouver. Credit: edb3_16, iStock.

How do you transform one of the world’s largest industries into a leader in zero-carbon technologies? 

Safe Passage: BC Green Shipping Corridors Assessment, a research project led by a team at the University of Victoria, is examining that question.  

This project is funded through the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) by the British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation through the ministry’s Zero-Emission Vehicles Project. It will receive $180,000 over three years. 

"The Safe Passage project, funded by the provincial government, will play a crucial role in accelerating decarbonization in one of the world’s largest industries,” says Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.

“By understanding market demand and exploring zero- and low-carbon energy sources, this research will position British Columbia as a global leader in discussing the future of environmentally sustainable shipping."

If shipping were a country, it would be the eighth largest GHG emitter in the world. More than 80 per cent of global trade by volume is carried by sea, and deep-sea shipping accounts for about three per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  

An international movement has been building to create green shipping corridors — zero-emissions maritime shipping routes between two or more ports — as an essential step towards decarbonization. 

The Safe Passage project will perform foundational research on how the shipping industry can speed up decarbonization. The project will assess existing and potential zero- and low-carbon energy sources, as well as market demand for alternative fuels by ocean-going and land-based shipping. 

The team plans to use the research’s findings as the basis for policy and regulatory recommendations to both provincial and federal governments. 

Professor Curran Crawford
Professor Curran Crawford

“This project will be contributing to the global discussion of where shipping is going,” says Curran Crawford, a University of Victoria professor of mechanical engineering, director of the Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, and Safe Passage principal investigator. 

“This will push forward the conversation,” he says, and create a “technology roadmap.” 

Reducing shipping emissions will bring multiple benefits to BC, says Crawford, such as improving air quality in port communities and increasing investment in BC’s low-carbon energy systems. 

There are currently no green shipping corridors in place in Canada, but momentum is building. The Ports of Seattle, Vancouver and Juneau are exploring a green corridor for cruises through the Pacific Northwest. And in 2022, the federal government announced the Canadian Green Shipping Corridors Framework, as well as efforts to establish a Green Shipping Corridors Network in the Great Lakes — St. Lawrence Seaway System

The Vancouver Maritime Centre for Climate (VMCC) is the project partner for Safe Passage, and is engaged in advancing the green-corridor concept within BC. 

“A clear understanding of zero- and low-carbon energy sources complemented with an understanding of market demand will lay the foundation to accelerate maritime decarbonization here in our province, which will improve air quality, boost trade and increase investment in BC,” says Elisabeth Charmley, VMCC Executive Director.  

“There is huge potential in this research.” 

Research Partners

Principal Investigators

Solution Seekers

  • Vancouver Maritime Centre for Climate