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Emitting less CO2 together: Container shipping holds course

Monday, 28 December 2020 | 13:00

With the implementation of IMO 2020, the shipping industry has proven that it, too, can take a major collective step towards lower sulphur emissions. The industry’s next goal: reducing CO2 emissions and thereby helping to slow down global warming.

“When it comes to climate-friendly measures, our overriding principle is to use as little energy as possible for as much transport performance as possible,” says Jörg Erdmann, Senior Director Sustainability at Hapag-Lloyd AG. “Since we are a container shipping company with over 230 vessels, this means that we mainly look at our fleet. That’s where we can reduce emissions the most.”

Since air and climate affect us all and cannot be defined within company or country boundaries, sustainability efforts will require teamwork to succeed. Hapag-Lloyd and other industry representatives are actively engaging with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and continuously working on innovative improvements to minimise any negative impacts on the environment and climate. Container shipping – as well as its customers and end consumers – can contribute to these efforts in four areas: The industry has already lowered emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOX) by 80 percent between 2006 and 2016, and the sulphur content of its fuel – and thereby also particulate-matter emissions – from 3.5 to 0.5 percent by 2020. And in the decade ahead, it intends to focus on reducing CO2 emissions.

Positive interim results…

At the beginning of the year, the shipping industry achieved something that had long been impossible: By complying with the IMO 2020 fuel regulation aimed at reducing maritime sulphur emissions, it has jointly contributed to improving the air quality on our planet. To do so, Hapag-Lloyd and all other carriers have significantly reduced the amount of sulphur their ships emit during operations for the first time. The cap on the sulphur content of our fuels is now 85% lower than before. The success of the IMO 2020 regulation has only been possible thanks to international collaboration. Debates regarding whether joint measures to improve air quality should also entail joint cost sharing are not playing a role in these efforts at this time. “Thanks to joint efforts with our customers and in the industry, the challenge of having all players move towards a cleaner world of transport and logistics has been met in the very first year of the IMO 2020 regulation,” says Richard von Berlepsch, Managing Director Fleet at Hapag-Lloyd AG. However, the tense global situation and ongoing pandemic are creating more and more uncertainty for everyone involved.

Richard von Berlepsch, Managing Director Fleet at Hapag-Lloyd AG

More digital possibilities than ever before …

In any case, in addition to the immediate goal of tackling the pandemic, the longer-term goal of achieving even lower CO2 emissions mustn’t be neglected. “We can reduce the CO2 emissions of our vessels in two ways: in how we build them, and in how we operate them,” explains Richard von Berlepsch. “In terms of construction, we can work with our mechanical engineers and shipyards to design the ship’s engine, propeller and hull to reduce emissions. And in terms of operations, we can make optimum use of our ships on a daily basis, which means organising our services even more efficiently and sailing with higher capacity utilisation and shorter port laytimes. Thanks to digitalisation, we now have better opportunities to do so than ever before.” For example, Hapag-Lloyd’s Network Operations department analyses data on round voyages and vessel performance. In 2019, Hapag-Lloyd was able to reduce water resistance by consistently measuring ship fouling and removing it from its vessels. The result has been a significant reduction in exhaust emissions. In addition, digital tools are being used for container stowage planning and trim optimisation.

Jörg Erdmann, Senior Director Sustainability at Hapag-Lloyd AG

… but still a lot more to do

“On the path to decarbonisation, Hapag-Lloyd is pursuing the IMO’s goals, which the entire shipping industry must achieve – or, better yet, exceed – together,” says Jörg Erdmann. Following the IMO calculation method, the industry must reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent per transport load (i.e. TEU) by 2030 and by 50 percent in absolute terms by 2050 compared to 2008. “By 2019, Hapag-Lloyd was able to lower its specific CO2 emissions – meaning emissions per TEU/kilometre – by 50 percent compared to the reference year 2008,” Jörg Erdmann adds. “However, since we are working towards shared climate-protection goals as an industry, we can also not let up in our efforts to continuously improve. Our sustainability measures also take into consideration the well-being of our own children and future generations. And the fact that our customers and business partners also see things this way motivates us even more.”

Speaking of joint climate-protection efforts, there will be certain routes on which ship operators will be able to reduce their CO2 emissions more, such as because the local infrastructure is more sustainably configured than elsewhere. For example, in terms of the supply of power in ports, having connections to onshore power will make it possible to keep auxiliary diesel engines turned off during berthing times. “We have identified realistic reduction possibilities in our own fleet and are therefore confident that we can achieve our common goals,” says Richard von Berlepsch. “However, we also realize that this won’t happen by itself and that we will have to spend extra money to exploit this potential.”
Source: Hapag-Lloyd

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