CEC Systems features in Sea News on the sustainability in the ocean freight market

Author: Nicholas Press, Managing Director & CEO, CEC Systems

Read the full article at Sea News here.

Sustainability has become a strategic focus for the ocean freight market. Representing 2.4% of global CO2 emissions, the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) forecasts CO2 emissions from ocean vessels to rise between 50% and 250% by 2050. As a result, the IMO is requiring merchant ships to cut the amount of sulphur emitted into the atmosphere by 2020.

Maersk, the largest ocean vessel operator, has taken the requirement to heart and announced its goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. To achieve this goal, carbon neutral vessels must be commercially viable by 2030. The goal is expected to be achieved by a mix of new innovations, the adaption of new as well as physical technologies. However, 2030 is an aggressive target for an industry that has been traditionally slow to respond to change.

Not only is Maersk looking to invest in sustainable vessels but also sustainable containers. Traditionally, shipping lines have had containers fitted with tropical hardwood floors. It takes two cubic meters of hardwood to produce floors for three 40 foot containers. The container industry uses approximately 1.2-1.5 million cubic meters of hardwood annually to meet the demand for new containers. Despite the high usage of wood, it is not ideal as it adds additional quarantine cost but with the high price of steel, it is somewhat necessary to reduce the cost of the container itself.

As of January 2011, all Maersk containers will have floors made of timber from sources employing responsible forestry practices or non-wood alternatives such as bamboo and recycled plastic. Any tropical hardwood used will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Within the first four months of the policy change, Maersk Line purchased 64,000 containers that comply with the policy. Over the next five years, Maersk Line will purchase approximately 3 million containers (TEU), more than doubling its current container fleet. Certified floors will be in all Maersk Line containers within 18 years, the typical lifetime of a container.

While Maersk may be leading the ocean freight market in terms of sustainability actions, other sustainable measures as they relate to containers have taken place for a number of years. Most notably reusing shipping containers and turning them into buildings. This can lower the usage of bricks and cement as the production of cement is a major source of CO2. It could also help to reduce the usage of steel. Reusing a container could help to save about 3500 kilograms of steel.

A noted example is Starbucks’ Greener Stores initiative which utilizes shipping containers as stores. Through these store formats, Starbucks is able to reuse reclaimed materials throughout the design. The latest such store recently opened in Taiwan and joins over 45 prefabricated modular stores located in the U.S.

As sustainability plays a bigger role in the ocean freight market, collapsible containers should be a key component for achieving sustainable goals. Even though Maersk, for example, requires responsible forestry practices or non-wood alternatives for the flooring of its containers, the container itself remains basically the same, rigid and a space-taker instead of a space-saver.

Not only does the physical aspects of the container need to be considered but also how empty ones are managed. Empty containers cost the shipping industry about $20 billion per year. At any given time, about one-third that are in circulation are empty, with the average container spending nearly half its life idle.

The growth in global trade has resulted in large global trade deficits in which some countries import more than they export and vice versa. As a result, 1 in 5 containers being shipped is empty – a problem that will only grow as trade increases.

One of the benefits of collapsible containers is the space that is saved on vessels particularly when transported empty. The empty containers are retracted and stacked thus allowing for improved vessel travel. Additional environmental benefits of collapsible containers include:

  • Less C02 emissions through fewer trucks, train and ship movements
  • Less road and rail congestion means less wear and tear to major infrastructure
  • Fewer ships needed means less impact on the environment
  • Less space needed for the storage of empties

Continue reading the article here.


About CEC Systems

CEC Systems is an industrial technology company developing integrated solutions to the complex global challenges facing the shipping and logistics industries.

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