At least three factors have substantially cut the fuel consumption of containerships: slow-steaming, the trend towards larger, more fuel-efficient ships and restrictions placed by governments on ships coming into the ports, Drewry Supply Chain Advisors report in this month’s Logistics Executive Briefing for Importers and Exporters.
As average ship size on the Asia-North Europe route increased by 40% over the five-year period to 2013, CO2 emissions per round-voyage slot dropped by 35%, according to Drewry.
Global container trade grows by 4-5% a year, so fuel efficiency gains of 6-8% a year mean that fewer tonnes of CO2 are pumped by containerships into the atmosphere than before, according to Drewry. For example, in 2014, Maersk Line carried 7% more containers than the year before and reduced fuel consumption by container shipped by 8% – resulting in a net fall in the amount of fuel consumed and in associated CO2 emissions.
Another reason why container shipping lines are reducing pollution from ships is to cut operating costs. Since 2007, Maersk Line has achieved a 25% reduction in CO2 per container. If the carrier had not improved its energy efficiency and CO2 performance, the fuel cost in 2012 would have been USD 1.6 billion higher, according to Drewry. Similarly, China Shipping Container Lines spent less money on bunkers in 2013 than in 2012, despite shipping 2% more containers.
For exporters and importers, lower ship consumption has translated into lower freight rates and a lower carbon footprint, but also longer transit times.
In ports, where pollution from all sorts of ship emissions is a particular problem, substantial progress has also been made.
The port of Los Angeles reported that, during the 5-year period to 2010, the amount of diesel particulate matters emitted by ocean going ships in the port fell by 68% and the quantity of CO2 emitted by ocean going ships dropped by 22%.