Almost everything that surrounds us has been on board a ship. Your phone, your tablet and probably your table. Your refrigerator and the rest of your kitchen. And the building materials for your house. Many things you eat and most of what you wear. The petrol for your car and the gas used for producing your electricity and your heating. Efficient transportation leads to cheaper goods for consumers and gives producers access to the global value chains that fuel globalisation and economic development.
Shipping distance for a banana
CO2 emissions per banana
Shipping distance for a tablet
CO2 emissions per tablet
Shipping distance for grain
CO2 emissions per kg. grain
Shipping distance for diesel
CO2 emissions per liter diesel
Yet, this does not exempt the sector from addressing its CO2 footprint as transporting most of the world’s goods by sea also impacts the environment and the climate. The industry has responsibility for minimizing this footprint by designing more environmentally friendly ships and by operating the ships more efficiently.
The amount of carbon emitted when transporting one person from one part of the world to another by plane is about the same as transporting a 20-foot container the exact same distance by ship. The container could for example be filled with 48,000 bananas or 6,000 pairs of sneakers. In other words, shipping is a very energy efficient way to transport goods. But with close to 90 percent of the world's’ goods being transported by sea, shipping obviously has an impact on the global emission of CO2 and the climate challenges we are facing.
An increase in world trade does not automatically lead to a similar increase in CO2 emissions from merchant vessels. From 2007 to 2012, international shipping lowered its share of the total, global CO2 emission from 2.8 to 2.2% – while the amount of transported goods by ship grew by almost 20% according to CPB World Trade Monitor and Third IMO GHG Study.
The Danish Shipowners’ Association has been collecting fuel consumption data from its members since 2008. Danish shipping companies have kept their CO2-emissions constant despite a significant increase in the size of the Danish fleet. This has been possible because of sustained focus on identifying measures to improve the efficiency of maritime transport. The financial crisis also plays a role in the reduction. Improved fuel efficiency is not only good for the climate; it also represents an important tool in terms of reducing costs.
Maersk Lines 400 meter Triple-E ships have set a new standard for container transport by reducing CO2 emissions by around 35% per container carried.Read case
NORDEN is following the fuel consumption on its ships by the hour to optimize vessel performance.Read case
Clipper Group has developed a software solution to improve vessel performance. Most of the clients are other shipping companies.Read case
Scandlines has turned most of its fleet into hybrid ferries that run partly on batteries.Read case
The crews onboard DFDS’ compete about saving fuel. The results are impressive.Read case
Merchant ships have a history of being powered by so-called heavy fuel oil which leads to high emissions of sulphur (SOx) and particles. The air pollution causes lung diseases and asthma and also impacts oceans, lakes and forests. Strict sulphur limits have been introduced from 2015 for ships sailing in coastal areas such as the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the English Channel. Next step will be a similar regulation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and later on particle pollution.
Limits of sulphur (SOx) emissions from ships have existed since 2007. The requirements are getting stricter and in certain regional zones, so-called Emission Control Areas (ECA’s), the limit is lower than in the rest of the world.
Ships in the SECA zones are now required to reduce the sulphur content of their fuel to a limit of 0.1% – which corresponds to a ten-fold decrease. This has already had a measurable effect on air quality in Northern Europe. From 2020 or 2025 the regional rules will be supplemented with a global 0.5% limit instead of the current global 3.5% limit.
To comply with the sulphur requirements, shipping companies face the choice between installing relatively expensive scrubber systems that remove the pollutants, or switching to costly low-sulphur fuel, when entering the specific zones. Alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), which greatly reduce air pollution are also being used on some ships, and the use of these fuel types could increase considerably.
Shipping and logistics company DFDS has installed air cleaning systems on a number of its ships to live up to new sulphur-regulation.Read case
Terntank’s four new LNG-powered product tankers almost eliminate the emission of harmful gasses and particles and reduce CO2 emissions.Read case
The first ferries to be powered exclusively by LNG – Fjord Lines’ MS Stavangerfjord and MS Bergensfjord – are almost eliminating air pollution.Read case
A series of new vessels from gas tanker operator Evergas has been designed to make perfect use of a by-product from its cargo; ethane gas.Read case
Svitzer’s series of ECOtugs are improving air quality substantially, but a real eco-revolution in towage depends on stricter regulation or demands from costumers with an environmental focus.Read case
Breaking up a ship, which is often several hundred meters in length and weighs more than 50,000 tons, is a large-scale operation that comes with a lot of risks which need to be addressed.
Today 2 out of 3 merchant ships are recycled in South Asia, and the focus here on the environment and working conditions is not always satisfactory. But things are changing under international regulatory pressure, and a growing number of yards are striving to comply with the demands from shipping companies for safe and environmentally responsible recycling.
The International Maritime Organization, IMO, adopted the Hong Kong Convention in 2009 to secure global rules for the recycling of ships. The convention addresses environmental issues as well as the working conditions for the workers at the recycling yards. However, the convention has not yet come into force, as an insufficient number of countries, representing both the world fleet and the recycling capacity, have ratified the convention. This is not acceptable.
The typical lifetime of a cargo ship
With proper facilities and management ships can be recycled in a responsible way that ensures environmental protection as well as health and safety of the workers. The Danish Shipowners’ association has since the adoption of the Hong Kong Convention recommended its members to follow the requirements stipulated in the convention. An essential part of the requirements is to possess an inventory of the ship’s hazardous materials, which in turn enables the recycling facility to take the necessary precautions.
Steel is a finite product and it is therefore sensible to reuse as much of it as possible. When constructing the new series of Triple-E containerships, Maersk Line developed a “Cradle-to-Cradle Passport” in an effort to improve the recycling of the materials used in the construction of each vessel.Read case
Most ships use ballast water to stabilize the ship and to keep the propeller under water when not fully loaded. Ships will often take in ballast water in one part of the world and release it in another, potentially spreading invasive species such as microbes, plankton, jellyfish and crabs in the process. This can disturb the ecological balances in the discharge area.
In 2004 the International Maritime Organization, IMO, adopted a convention requiring ships to process their ballast water before releasing it back into the sea. Denmark ratified the ballast water convention in 2012. A number of other countries have done the same, yet the regulation still needs to be ratified by a few more countries in order to come into force.
A supertanker can carry around 100.000 m3 of seawater on one journey. They will often take in ballast water in one part of the world and release it in another, potentially spreading invasive species such as microbes, plankton, jellyfish and crabs in the process.
The Ballast Water Convention was adopted to prevent the transfer of harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens from one region to another. The Danish Shipowners’ Association fully supports the convention, but advocates for a pragmatic approach for short sea shipping. One example is the ferries operating on very short yet international distances, like the ferries sailing between Elsinore in Denmark and Helsingborg in Sweden – a 5 km trip. The environmental impact from the ballast water on areas with identical marine ecosystem should be analyzed further.
When building two new cruise ferries, Fjord Line decided to install ballast water systems instead of waiting for the future regulation to come into force.Read case
The most climate friendly mode of global transportation
Improving the air quality we breath
Dismantling with respect for the environment and ensuring decent working conditions
Protecting local marine environments
Smarter thinking and ambitious global standards