Shipping Climate Change

With the world economy growing at 5% a year – a steady clip in any language – it is not surprising that trade is growing too. Much is heard about air freight but the vast bulk of goods are not flown around the world but shipped. Shipping took a knock after the collapse of Lehman Brothers of New York in 2008 but it is growing again.

Shipping produces around 2.7% of climate change – more than aviation which is 1.9%. Realizing that it has to be seen to be getting its act together, the industry has produced a energy efficiency design index, as a way of marking ships for their impact on the environment. This index marks a ship with rating based on the amount of CO2 (or equivalent) produced per ton/kilometre of goods moved. The range of the index is wide so there is much room for improvement. The opportunity occurs when new ships are ordered.

Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, has just ordered ten humongous ships each of 18,000teu (TEU is twenty-foot equivalent unit or half the usual size of container lorry). These ships are half as polluting as the industry average. It will make a big difference.

But although the ships are an amazing improvement, the sheer growth of trade over the next few years means that shipping will still have a large effect on climate change.