Transitioning to Low Carbon Sea Transport in the Marshall Islands

Waan Aelõñ in Majel
Publicado: 12 Enero 2022
Última edición: 07 Noviembre 2022
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The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) relies on maritime transport for economic activity, connectivity and resilience. Connectivity, especially for the remote islands and atolls, is vital for access to services and socioeconomic opportunities for citizens. Sea transport ensures the delivery of education, health care and economic development, and plays a role in responding to climate change impacts.


RMI is almost entirely dependent on imported fossil fuels, the costs are high and a heavy burden on national and household budgets. Shifting to renewable energy sources helps reducing this burden and supports inclusive and sustainable economic growth.


RMI is a world leader in advocating for action on climate change and the only country to explicitly include domestic sea transport in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The country set the goal to reduce GHG emissions from domestic shipping by 40 per cent by 2030. Full decarbonisation is to be achieved by 2050.


Scale of implementation
Area-wide development
Buildings and facilities
Connective infrastructure, networks and corridors
Ecosistema urbano
Ecosistemas marinos y costeros
Mar abierto
Mar abierto
Actores locales
Ciencia y investigación
Ciudades e infraestructuras
Comunicación y divulgación
Conocimientos tradicionales
Financiación sostenible
Marco legal y normativo
Medios de vida sostenibles
Mitigación del cambio climático
Incremento de temperatura
Aumento del nivel del mar
Gestión ineficaz de los recursos financieros
Desarrollo de Infraestructura
Falta de capacidad técnica
Falta de conciencia del público y de los responsables de la toma de decisiones
Falta de infraestructura
Sustainable development goals
ODS 7 - Energía asequible y no contaminante


Marshall Islands


Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals is Affordable and Clean Energy. In the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in the Pacific island region -- a country that is 99.99% ocean and is therefore highly dependent on sea transport -- domestic ships run mainly on costly imported fuels that also emit a significant volume of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

RMI faces an existential risk from climate change-induced sea level rise. The project supports RMI in delivering its Nationally Determined Contributions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Central to the achievement of the goals is the reduction of the country’s GHG emissions from sea transportation.


Shifting from the use of fossil fuel propulsion to renewable energy sources is a challenge in the Marshall Islands mainly due to access to funding and the remoteness of outer islands. 


Young people as the future of the islands and country, the Marshallese society and the wider Pacific region

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

The project coveres all aspects of sustainable sea transport and therefore the knowledge is shared between the building blocks


By making RMI’s sea transport greener and raising energy efficiency, the project is helping the country achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution. Ultimately, this will reduce transport costs and benefit public agencies, private companies and the people of RMI.


The project introduces a wide range of climate-friendly solutions. One of these is developing and pilot-testing low-carbon propulsion technologies in cooperation with partners. Other steps are educating and training ship crews and researchers, as well as using modern energy-efficient sailing technologies and renewable energy. The project takes a two-phase approach. Firstly, it works with partners to assess the fleet’s economic efficiency and emissions. The baseline data from this is to be used to develop and analyse various low-carbon propulsion technologies for all shipping needs.


Secondly, it is designing and building a ship with the selected propulsion technologies and having it tested by the Marshall Islands Shipping Corporation (MISC). In parallel to these activities, the project also provides policy support to the RMI Government throughout the project term. This comes to bear in climate negotiations at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and others.



Waan Aelõñ in Majel

During the implementation of the project, it became clear that traditional boatbuilding skills are disappearing in the Marshall Islands and that the essential skills are much needed to create a shift to sustainable sea transport in RMI. At WAM, we organised two boatbuilding workshop with 13 Marshallese trained in traditional canoe building skills and energy efficient technology was introduced. Cost efficient and sustainable boatbuilding methods were learned. 

Waan Aelon in Majol (WAM) started their 3rd Boatbuilding Workshop on the 18th of October 2021 and was able to bring in 4 professional boatbuilder in carving Marshallese canoes (in their own trade) from four outer islands to learn the modern techniques WAM had acquired through close collaboration with the project. We have trainees from Kwajelein Atoll,  Ujae Atoll, Lae Atoll, and Aur Atoll. In just 2 weeks the trainees along with the boatbuilders from WAM, completed the hulls for a new (third) WAM Catamaran and the Proa. The duration of this workshop is 3 months. The foreseen time span for the courses consists of the trainees to build 1 WAM Catamaran, 1 Harry Proa and 4 Marshallese Traditional Canoes, Korkor.

For the 4 Korkor’s, every participant will build his own and take it back to their respective home atoll. In the last month the Korkor’s will be tested at sea along with the Proa and WAM Catamaran.

Tony Alik, the Associate Director for WAM, stated that Aur Atoll does not have any functioning canoes now. The Korkor that will be built by the trainee, will be the only canoe sailing in Aur.

As part of a trail and testing phase, an electrical engine was installed on a WAM Catamaran to have an alternative propulsion on board the boat.

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Janina Marie Laurent Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit