PhD Opportunity – How will future trading patterns change shipping demand in tomorrow’s low-carbon world?

About the project:

Building on the Tyndall Centre’s expertise in the shipping sector1,2,3, we are seeking a candidate to investigate the carbon reductions that result from changing demand in a future low-carbon shipping system. This project is quantitative, and candidates should have good written and analytical skills, and would benefit from experience coding in a relevant language (Python, C++, Matlab).


For the last decade, shipping demand has increased to offset energy efficiency gains from ships. Moreover, due to this increasing demand, the carbon intensity targets set by the international shipping regulatory body, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), produce no tangible reductions in carbon emissions by 2030.

Research shows that optimising trading patterns between countries to minimise shipping distance and reduce demand can equate to substantial carbon reductions4. However, a reduction in coal and oil products, coinciding with an increasing demand for alternative fuels in a future low-carbon world, will change the trading patterns of the global shipping system. No study investigates how these commodity changes will influence trade flows and carbon emissions in the sector, and their resulting impact on optimised trading patterns. Furthermore, the PhD research has the potential to feed into discussions around the optimised positioning of future low-carbon shipping ‘hubs’ that will be required to distribute alternative fuels around the world.

Project aim:

The project aims to evaluate the changes in shipping demand from shifts in future trading patterns and will quantitatively assess the optimised positions of alternative fuel ‘hubs’ that will constitute the backbone of tomorrow’s low-carbon world.

Research objectives:

  1. A detailed literature review of the potential changes in demand for commodities within shipping and optimising trade patterns between countries to reduce carbon emissions.
  2. Develop an optimised trade flow model to quantitatively assess changes to trade flows and the result on carbon emissions in the sector.
  3. Identify the spatial distribution of alternative fuels and highlight positions for optimised alternative fuel shipping hubs.
  4. Identify barriers that prevent optimised trade flows.

The successful candidate will benefit from being part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, a world-leading centre for interdisciplinary climate change research. The successful candidate will have access to unrivalled specialist expertise and opportunities to develop transferable skills and enhance their future employability. In addition, The University of Manchester offers an extensive training and development package to support the effective completion of a PhD.

Candidates should have a good first degree and a knowledge of optimisation techniques would be useful but is not essential. Additional University of Manchester entry requirements for PhD research degrees can be found at:

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder), carer support funds for conferences, and peer support networks for parents and carers.

All appointments are made on merit. The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

To express interest, please contact Dr James Mason: ja*********@ma********.uk


  1. Bullock, S., Mason, J. & Larkin, A. The urgent case for stronger climate targets for international shipping. Clim. Policy (2021).
  2. Bullock, S., Mason, J., Broderick, J. & Larkin, A. Shipping and the Paris climate agreement: a focus on committed emissions. BMC Energy 2, (2020).
  3. Bows-Larkin, A., Anderson, K., Mander, S., Traut, M., Walsh, C. Shipping charts a high carbon course. Nature Climate Change 5, 293-295 (2015).
  4. Wang, XT., Liu, H., Lv, ZF. et al. Trade-linked shipping CO2 emissions. Nat. Clim. Chang. 11, 945–951 (2021).
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