Leading container shipper Kuehne+Nagel has started to benchmark liner services according to their carbon emissions.

The move is due to increased demand from container shippers seeking to reduce their carbon footprints.

It also follows a statement by Otto Schacht, the German transport giant’s executive vice president of sea logistics, that liner companies have not done enough to cut emissions to date.

Kuehne+Nagel is now ranking the carbon emissions of hundreds of global liner services.

Emissions table

Their scores are included in its Sea Explorer platform, which was initially rolled out last year to compare reliability and service-related functions.

But a growing awareness of container shippers in the run up to IMO 2020 has led to the spotlight being shone on their carbon emissions.

Kuehne+Nagel is measuring CO2 emissions per container transported per kilometre. Unsurprisingly, these are found to be lower in larger vessels with modern engines.

But a caveat to that is the assumption that the vessels are fully loaded.

“Running an empty vessel certainly is not an [environmentally] efficient way,” Kuehne+Nagel sea freight product manager Kathrin Wolf said.

In transpacific trades, services using 14,000-teu vessels operated by Maersk Line or the Ocean Alliance — comprising CMA CGM, Cosco, OOCL and Evergreen — rank highest with an emissions rating of less than 50 grams per kilometre.

We have to neutralise the remaining CO2 emissions, otherwise our grandchildren will not have good memories about us

That contrasts with those using smaller vessels operated on Matson’s China-Long Beach Express service.

Carbon footprint

While the service is being upgraded, it currently operates with five smaller sub-panamax ships, including the 2,824-teu Manoa (built 1982). That results in a very high emissions production level of nearly 90 grams per container per kilometre.

Kuehne+Nagel is using the data to choose cleaner services as an increasing number of its customers worry about their carbon footprint.

Wolf said pressure to do so is particularly strong from the automotive industry, which is keen to lower its emissions in the supply chain industry.

Other shippers such as IKEA are understood to be choosing liner services based on environmental factors, including emissions.

The message has not fallen on deaf ears, with leading liner operators claiming to have drastically reduced their carbon emissions.

Reducing emissions

CMA CGM said last week that it had achieved a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions per container transported per kilometre between 2005 and 2015.

It has achieved a further 17% reduction between 2015 and 2018, in line with its 2025 objective of reducing the figure by 30%.

That been described by Kuehne+Nagel's Schacht on his LinkedIn page “as the right way to go, but not enough”.

“We have to neutralise the remaining CO2 emissions, otherwise our grandchildren will not have good memories about us," he wrote. "To reach the 1.5 degrees of the Paris Agreement [on climate change], we have to act faster.”