Report: Container Shipping is Making Progress Reducing CO2 Emissions

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord

Carbon dioxide emissions from the global containerized shipping industry declined in 2019 and continued to make steady progress according to a new report from Clean Cargo, a forum dedicated to reducing the environmental impact of the shipping industry. The annual report, which includes data from approximately 3,500 vessels, indicates that container shipping continues to improve its fleet-wide environmental efficiency. 

The global industry averages for CO2 emissions per container per kilometer decreased by 5.6 percent for dry carriers but only and 2.5 percent for reefer (refrigerated) operators. Clean Cargo is also reported a better than 10 percent decrease in global SOx emissions, although they note that their methodology and calculations do not factor in the increasing use of exhaust gas cleaning systems. 

The results are based on 2019 CO2 and SOx data supplied by 17 major carriers, which represents 85 percent of the global container capacity. All of the data was verified by a third-party.

The improvements in CO2 emissions by dry cargo carriers were observed on all of the major trade routes. The best improvements reached a 12 percent reduction on routes from Asia to the Middle East, India, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea. The improvement was approximately half that on the routes between Asia and the North American ports on both the east and west coast, while the improvements were just a three percent reduction on the trade lanes between Asia and Northern Europe. Clean Cargo noted that the lesser trafficked trade lanes were more sensitive to individual vessel allocations and as such displayed more variation.

Analysis of the 10-year trend shows that lower emissions correlate with higher transport work, increasing size of ship, and trade lane length. 

“Standardized, consolidated, industry-wide emissions data are essential to decarbonization efforts. Clean Cargo continues to provide industry-leading emissions factors and tools for buyers of freight to calculate their emissions and make procurement decisions that incorporate environmental impacts,” said Angie Farrag-Thibault, Collaborations and Transport Director at BSR and Program Director of Clean Cargo. “With over 60 global brands and forwarders working with the industry in Clean Cargo, we are making excellent collective progress. But we know that further action is needed: full value chain collaboration is critical to transform the system, and we encourage more brands to get involved.”

Clean Cargo also reports that the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) decreased from over 97 percent to under 87 percent of the last 10 years, but they saw no major change in fuel types in the most recent report. They observed a slight increase in MDO and a substantial increase in LFO, LNG, and hybrid fuels, although they continue to represent a small portion of the total fuel consumed. Ultra-large vessels continue to use HFO or conventional fuels, with hybrid fuel usage increasing on large vessels, while LNG so far is mostly used on smaller vessels. 

Clean Cargo developed a standardized methodology and reporting system that was adopted globally by the industry, with carriers submitting operational data from the entire fleet to BSR on an annual basis for trade lane emission factors aggregation. The results produce environmental performance scorecards for each carrier, which are used to meet corporate supply chain sustainability goals by a significant share of shipping customers participating in the group.

Clean Cargo members also work to accelerate progress by sharing best practices, discussing trends and innovations across the full logistics value chain, and designing tools and pilot projects that support progress towards industry decarbonization. 

Among the carriers participating in the annual index are A.P. Moller – Maersk, CMA CGM Group, COSCO Shipping Lines, Evergreen Line, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai M.M., MSC, ONE (Ocean Network Express), and Yang Ming Marine Transport. 

A copy of the full report is available on the Clear Cargo website.

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